GERARD DOHERTY has warned that Derry City must be ‘mentally strong’ as they prepare for three games which could shape their season.
That potentially season-defining period begins with a trip to Oriel Park this Friday night to take on the formidable challenge of league champions, Dundalk - a ‘winnable’ match according to the Derry City ‘keeper.
We can’t get wrapped up too much in Dundalk. I think teams have done that too much over the last year or two. They’ve been beaten before they landed down there.Gerard Doherty
Doherty insists the ‘Candy Stripes’ have nothing to fear from the ‘Lilywhites’ despite their UEFA Europa League heroics last week and the fact they are currently NINE points clear of Derry in the Premier Division table.
The 35 year-old Creggan man reckons teams have shown the league champions too much respect this season and are beaten before they even get off the bus at Oriel Park.
He insists Derry will travel to the Co. Louth venue intent on clinching what would be a momentous victory.
“The game at Dundalk will be totally different to the Wexford game at the weekend,” said Doherty.
“It’s one we’re really preparing for and we have to be mentally strong going down there. We’re in good shape to go there and get a result,” he claimed.
“They’re a quality side with a quality manager and they have strength in depth as well.
“It’s a bit of a cliché but we can only focus on ourselves. We can’t get wrapped up too much in Dundalk.
“I think teams have done that too much over the last year or two. They’ve been beaten before they landed down there.
“We’re doing everything in our power this week so we’re capable of going there to take them on. Not just playing for a draw. We’re going down to beat them - make no bones about that. It’s a winnable game! We’re all in the same league. This is our chance to go down and show we’re a quality side as well.”
Three wins from the next three matches would all but seal European qualification and an FAI Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium for Derry City.
It’s a tall order to claim six points from matches against Dundalk away and Shamrock Rovers at home next Monday night, never mind winning an FAI Cup semi-final at Oriel Park.
Doherty refuses to look past the task at hand but he’s relishing the challenge of competing on two fronts at the business end of the season.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position where we have something to fight for. With the Rovers game being rearranged and stuck in between two massive games, the season is getting even bigger for us now.
“It’s the business end and that’s where we want to be - up challenging for things so bring it on.
“That (three wins) has to be our aim,” he added. “We can’t have anything else in our mind but going to win this next game.
“It doesn’t matter that we play them in the cup next week and we play Rovers in between. That’s totally irrelevant at the minute. We have to be totally focused on going to Dundalk to win. “
The experienced ‘keeper has been influential in the club’s success in league and cup this season and a real contender for the club’s ‘Player of the Year’ award.
He’s been outstanding marshalling the Derry defence this season and has made numerous game-changing saves throughout the campaign. Doherty has taken great pride in Derry’s 18 clean sheets and is relishing his greater role in orchestrating the defence under Kenny Shiels.
Doherty knows the team will continue to make mistakes because of the risks involved in Shiels’ philosophy of building moves from the back. But he’s confident the team has the ‘firepower’ to win against any opposition.
“Kenny has given me the confidence to go on and control games and give more information out. We’ve had to do that because we’ve had to chop and change at the back.
“To be fair to the boys playing in front of me, there’s two full backs playing centre half for the last couple of months and they’ve been two of the most consistent players in the team.
“There’s a good attitude going into games and we’re looking to keep clean sheets. We know on any given day we’ve got the firepower to score.
“Maybe in previous seasons we didn’t have the confidence around the team but this year it’s been steady enough and it’s reflected on the clean sheets we’ve kept.”