Europa League ‘D-Day’ for Derry at Richmond Park Tonight

Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Picture Margaret McLaughlin

ST. PATRICK’S Athletic will be presented with the Airtricity League’s Premier Division Trophy tonight after their final home game of the season against Derry City. (7.45 p.m.)

And while Declan Devine is hopeful that the Inchicore “Super Saints” have remained in celebratory mode, the Brandywell boss is acutely aware of the professionalism which exists within the corridors of the Richmond Park club.

“I sincerely hope they are still celebrating what was a deserved title win, but knowing their manager, Liam Buckley and how professional he is, I would expect St. Pat’s to field a full strength side on Friday night,” claimed Devine.

“They will be officially crowned champions after the final whistle and with that in mind I think it’s fair to suggest that the game will attract a large attendance.

“It’s St. Pat’s final home game of the season and I’ve absolutely no doubt that Liam Buckley and his players will hope to sign off the 2013 campaign with another victory,” claimed the Creggan man.

The Derry boss, however, insisted that his players would not be overawed with St. Pat’s celebrations and that provided his “Candy Stripes” matched the desire, commitment and determination of the home lot, then a favourable result was always possible.

“With the pressure off, St. Pat’s can now play with a special freedom having already won the title and with no pressure, they are capable of turning up on the day and putting in a good performance in front of an appreciative audience.

“You often find that with the pressure off, players can lift their game so I don’t mind stating that hopefully they will have remained in a party mode, still enjoying their league win.

“That said, I really can’t see them taking their foot off the gas, especially as Friday’s game in their final match of what has been a memorable season for them.”

But while congratulating St. Pat’s on their success, Devine was confident that his playing staff would put the home side’s celebrations to one side.

“We’ve got to put the goings-on to the back of our minds and remind ourselves what three points would do for us,” noted Devine.

“In a game that is so important to us, we must make sure that we are sound defensively as I continue to believe that we remain a goalscoring threat.

“If we can do that, then I feel we are more than capable of winning the game. We’ve recorded good results down there in the past and having shared the spoils after a 1-1 result back in April, our players will hold no fear.

“But it’s so important that we show more desire as the result means more to us than it does to St. Pat’s. We must match their effort, commitment and desire and try to win the game,” he maintained.

Four points from the final two games would see Derry in with a chance of going to Europe again, but only if Sligo Rovers manage to defeat Drogheda in the FAI Cup final.

“Obviously we must finish fourth to have a chance of returning to the Europa League. Four points over the two games would see us acheive that, but even then nothing can be taken for granted.

“But it would be so nice to record a win against St. Pat’s and, should that be the case, a fourth place finish could actually be decided on Friday night depending on the result of the game at UCD involving Shamrock Rovers.

“In short, Friday night is a huge game for us and a win would go a long, long way in our mission to add another four points at least to our league total.

“I’d prefer not to be playing our final game of the season against Limerick with Europe being out of our control, so we really must to everything in our power to get a result in Inchicore.”

Would he take a draw before the game kicked-off?

“No. I would prefer to try and win the game. There’s no doubt that a draw would represent a favourable point, but we would still be under pressure in the final game if Shamrock Rovers defeated UCD. We would then have to win the last game and that would bring pressure. Let’s try and get a win on Friday and that would allow us the freedom to play well and raise our game in the Brandywell against Limerick on Friday week.”

On the team front, Ruaidhri Higgins remains out with a groin strain sustained against Shamrock Rovers last weekend while Rory Patterson is also considered a doubt with a hamstring issue.

“Ruaidhri is definitely out and he could also miss the Limerick game but I’m hopeful that Rory will be able to train before the game. We’ll see how he is, but at this stage he’s a doubtful starter,” confirmed Devine.

And with local youngsters Josh Tracey and Michael Duffy returning injured after international duty with N. Ireland, Devine was not happy.

“I had hoped to give Josh some game time during the final two games but he’s come back from Belgium with a medial knee ligament injury which will keep him out for three or four weeks,

“Michael injured his ankle during the warm-up in Serbia when preparing to represent the N. Ireland Under-21’s. He’s just arrived home, so the extent of his injury will be assessed by our medical team this weekend.

“He’s considered extremely doubtful for the Pat’s match which is disappointing as I would have liked to have had him in Dublin as he represents a goalscoring threat,” concluded Devine.