BRANDYWELL boss, Declan Devine, has dismissed suggestions that tonight’s game against St. Patrick’s Athletic would prove to be a dress rehearsal for next month’s FAI Cup Final. (Kick-off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Indeed, the Derry manager claimed that the game would have “no bearing whatsoever” on the forthcoming cup final between the sides, but he believed it would be “a nice one to win” from a Derry City perspective.
With Rory Patterson absent due to a one match suspension and Mark Farren struggling with a thigh strain, the “Candy Stripes” are expected to have leading scorer, Davy McDaid and Conor Murphy spearheading the home attack.
But Devine was adamant that he would not be resting players who, he insisted, needed game-time before the November 4th showpiece in the Aviva Stadium.
“St. Pat’s have defeated us twice this season, a 2-0 win at the Brandywell followed by what was a flattering 3-0 decision at Richmond Park, so we have a few issues to address on Friday night.
“We don’t take defeat easily at the Brandywell and while we hope to continue building momentum for the cup final, we will be fielding our strongest side against St. Pat,” insisted Devine.
“Friday night’s game will have no bearing whatsoever on cup final day, whether we win, lose or draw. The fixture on November 4th with be a totally different game, on a totally different day in a totally different competition.
“But our final league match is a fixture we would like to win as we remain in contention for a Setanta Sports Cup place.”
Devine held the view that both teams will hope to continue to build momentum before the cup final with a good performance on the night.
“St. Pat’s are fortunate that they have another league game to play before the FAI Cup final, as our game against the now departed Monaghan United had been ruled out quite some time ago. So I think they will attempt to put down another marker at the Brandywell having already won here during the season.
“There’s no doubting the quality in their side and I think they may try to intimidate us but, at the same time, the teams we field for our two defeats against them were well understrength due to our injury problems.
“Now we have players returning to full fitness and, as I’ve maintained all along, when at full strength we are match for any team in the Premier Division.
“With that in mind, key players will not be rested as they need games to improve their fitness levels and we will be fielding the strongest team available to us.”
Pointing to the return of Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery and, indeed, Stephen McLaughlin, Devine felt Derry would have a better shape with players back operating in their most accustomed positions.
“We may not have a match against Monaghan next week, but I think there are very few teams in the Airtricity League who would not envy the fact that we will be playing in the Aviva Stadium for the first time having qualified for the FAI Cup Final. I believe that we are hitting top form at the right time and I don’t think St. Pat’s will be taking us for granted.
“I watched them lose to Sligo Rovers on television last weekend and, I must admit, they didn’t deserve to lose that match after what was a superb come-back, so they are a quality side. Our group has been on a high over recent weeks with two top displays at Tolka Park and in Tallaght Stadium; training has been both enthusiastic and enjoyable and it’s clear that our players hope to finish the season on a high,” maintained Devine.
And he was adamant that Friday night’s game was important for both sides.
“Having defeated both the Irish League champions and the League of Ireland champions in the Setanta Sports Cup earlier this season, I felt we were the best side in the tournament. But to lose out on penalties against Crusaders in the final was hard to take.
“But a win over St. Pat’s would not only continue our good run, it would also put us in a very good place in relation to qualifying for next season’s Setanta Cup and that’s the motivation.
“For St. Pat’s, they’ve yet to confirm their runners-up spot in the Premier Division and, therefore, a win is also important to them, so I expect both teams to prepare accordingly.”
City to meet supporters
Meanwhile, with no game next Friday night, Derry have extended an open invitation to club supporters to come to the Brandywell, watch the team in training and in a practise match and, of course, take time out to meet the playing staff.
“We’ve no match, but we are inviting the local community to come over to the Brandywell and meet the players from 6.00 p.m to 7.30 p.m..,” confirmed Devine.
“We’ll be training and we’ll also have a practise match, but time will be set aside for our young supporters to meet the playing staff and having their photographs taken with them as we want everyone involved in our pre-cup final preparations.
“We want a community feel about the club and we hope everyone will want to be part of it. We will have a band playing and for our younger supporters we will have face painting opportunities and other events. We really want to create a festival atmosphere for everyone as we want everyone behind us for the final,” concluded Devine.