Derry City are out to send Premier Division rivals Sligo Rovers a clear message in Tuesday’s EA Sports Cup semi-final.
The two clubs are on a collision course in the league in just under a fortnight’s time and manager Stephen Kenny wants to lay down a marker when the sides meet next week.
“The league game there will be absolutely massive for us,” he said after Friday’s night 1-0 win over Bohemians which took them three points clear at the top of the table.
“But this is a cup semi-final and if you get that far in a competition, then you want to go on and win it.
“We’ve had our ups and downs against Sligo this year and this is a game we want to go out and win.”
Kenny was criticised for selecting an understrength side in the FAI Cup which led to a shock exit at the first time of asking by Wexford Youths.
Their progress in the EA Sports League Cup has been more serene, even though he has again used fringe players in that competition.
And he will be forced into at least three changes as Eamon Deery, Eamon Zayed and Stewart Greacen are all suspended on Tuesday.
Additionally keeper Gerard Doherty picked up a knee injury in Friday’s game at Dalymount Park.
But that was the only sour note from a game which Kenny described as massively important for the club’s chances in the title race.
“It was a really great win, a vital win for us,” he said.
“It was always going to be a tough game for us and so it proved, but we came through to pick up three points that could prove crucial to us.
“Patrick McEleney did really well for the goal and he should have had a penalty for us as well to put us two up so the game was always still in the balance.
“We knew that we needed to pull off a few good results to keep us on the same level as the other leaders.
“Losing James McClean and Gareth McGlynn has meant that we have had to play different systems and the players have responded well to that and are still creating the chances to score goals.”
Kenny added that McEleney had the happy knack of coming good in the big games.
“People maybe forget that Patrick is only 18 yet,” he said.
“But he’s got a great temperament for the game.
“I’ve asked him to play a number of positions for me, and he has done that extremely well.”
Derry’s lead at the top of the premier division table is likely to evaporate today when Shamrock Rovers play one of their games in hand against whipping boys Galway United.
But they couldn’t have hoped to have been level at the top going into the final series of games when they came up from the first division last year.
The unbeaten run now stands at 13 games and the dream of back-to-back titles is well and truly alive.
Turn to pages 46 & 47