DECLAN Devine would have settled for just one defeat in the opening series of games, but in order to achieve that objective, Derry City must defeat Limerick at the Brandywell this evening. (7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while the Derry boss has every confidence in the quality of his current playing staff given their excellent start to the season, Limerick have posed problems for the more fashionable sides in the league and the Creggan man gave the impression that the Shannonsiders could well represent a banana skin this evening.
Under the astute management of Stuart Taylor, who has coached in the Scottish Premier Division with Hamilton - Devine having already crossed his path with assisting Stephen Kenny at Dunfermline - Limerick has assembled a newlook, competent squad who many believe will finish in the top half of the Premier Division table this season.
Indeed, having brought Joe Gamble back from England to command his usual central midfield playmaking role, Taylor has also added players from Scotland, none more so that Danny Galbraith who arrives from Hibernian, leaving the Edinburgh club following an alleged row with team boss, Pat Fenlon.
Derry’s problems, however, could centre on complacency given that very few of the younger members of his squad have actually played against Limerick in the past.
And with Monday’s top of the table clash against Sligo in the Showgrounds also posing a possible side attraction, the Brandywell boss has spent a few hours this week lecturing his squad on the dangers of taking their eyes off the ball.
“This is the most important match of our season to date,” declared Devine. “We’ve had a long chat with the players, explaining the dangers of complacency because it happens in every league in the world at every level.
“Players cannot take their eyes off the ball, if they do they will get punished and our priority over the first series of games was to place as many points on the board as we possibly could.
“And in that regard, the lads have done really well. They’ve impressed us all but we cannot stop here. We must be prepared to raise our game and kick on and against Limerick we must play at the same intensity as if the game was against Sligo or Shamrock Rovers,” insisted the the team boss.
“I’ve watched Limerick play Bray and it would be very dangerous to under-estimate them or take them for granted. They are a very, very good side and I know they have prepared professional for their trip to Derry, having opted to stay overnight,” noted Devine.
Busy Bank Holiday Weekend
The fact that his side would be involved in the biggest game on Bank Holiday Monday, Devine refused to take any chances.
“When having to play two matches over a very short period of time, we cannot afford to take any chances with niggling injuries. Obviously, we have players who hate missing games and are prepared to take chances, but given the amount of matches involved this season, we really can’t take any risks on that front.”
One particular Derry doubt for the Limerick match is regular left-back, Thomas Crawley, who was called ashore against St. Pat’s due to sore groins, an injury he appears to have been carrying through recent games.
However, Dermot McCaffrey, who lost the left-back berth to the Longford man after sustaining a hamstring injury earlier in the campaign, stepped in against both Shamrock Rovers and St. Pat’s and didn’t put a foot wrong operating both at centre-back and left-back. Thomas doesn’t like to miss games. He’s a young player who continues to impress, so we will be guided by our medical people on whether he will start against Limerick or not. Thankfully, we have other capable players in the squad who can operate across the back four and Dermy McCaffrey will step in if required. He played against Rovers, was unlucky to lose out in the starting line against St. Pat’s, but when did come on, he didn’t put a foot wrong,” claimed Devine.
“Limerick will travel up here with the intention of having a good go at us and we’ve got to be prepared for that. As I’ve said, they have quality players and good attacking options in their panel so we will have to be at ourselves if we’re to maintain our unbeaten run.”
Devine also called on the support of the “Brandywell Faithful” who, he claimed, made a vast difference when “letting themselves be heard” during the Shamrock Rovers game.
“Against Rovers we had a magnificent attendance which was certainly appreciated by the players. Against St. Pat’s at Inchicore last Friday night I was also very impressed with our travelling support and, as always, they played their part.
“So I’m hopeful that another big attendance will arrive for the Limerick game and that will keep our players on their toes. The noise from the Brandywell terraces can intimidate any visiting team and as we continue to put last season’s home performances behind us, we really do appreciate the support on the terraces. The players certainly appreciate the support and that has played no small part in our success to date,” he concluded.