BOOSTED by a superb performance in Tolka Park on Wednesday night, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine, insisted that the competition for places in Derry’s FAI Cup panel will commence tomorrow night in Tallaght Stadium. (Kick-off: 7.00 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And with players such as Stephen McLaughlin, Stewart Greacen, Rory Patterson and Kevin Deery all receiving valuable “game time” over the four day period, Devine is keeping his fingers crossed that his fully fit squad would finish the league season strongly.
“For the first time this season, we had experienced players on the subs’ bench for the FAI Cup semi-final,” noted the Derry boss. “I can’t remember the last time I had that this season, but I now face the possibility of having a fully fit panel of players to see through the current season.
“We have two league matches remaining, against Rovers and St. Pat’s at the Brandywell next Friday night, and in those two matches our players will be playing for their places in the squad which will represent the club in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, November 4th,” he added.
Indeed, the Derry boss refused to dismiss the final two league games given that he had qualified for the FAI Showpiece. Instead, he intends to field full strength panels giving additional matches to those players who needed them.
“Stewart Greacen was outstanding on Wednesday night and he probably gave his best performance of the season in the cup replay. Slowly but surely he has got much needed games under his belt and he will benefit playing in the two league games before the cup final,” continued the Brandywell boss.
“Likewise, Kevin Deery - who has his critics - continues to be an invaluable player in this football club, make no mistake about that. He brings so much to the table; his leadership qualities, his talent in the midfield area and his constant desire to achieve success will also prove crucial as we attempt to end the season on a high.
“Kevin was injury prone and we had to manage that situation and on Wednesday night we saw our captain playing to his potential. We’ve had to wrap him in cotton wool this season, playing him for 20 minutes here and there, giving him one half or playing him for an hour, we’ve had to manage him in that regard and things have worked out for us. He’s raring to go again now that he’s right.”
Therefore, describing tomorrow night’s game as “very important,” Devine suggested that three high intensity games over the space of seven days can prove difficult.
“We must also make two trips to Dublin over a period of four days but at least we have competition for places and I want to see people stepping up to the mark, attempting to break into the first team and battle to secure their place to play in the panel which will travel to the Aviva Stadium on November 4th.
“And there’s no better place to open our preparations for that match than in Tallaght Stadium on Saturday night against one of the top teams in the league. We must make sure that we show determination and hunger in every game we play as we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. We must continue to build a bit of momentum as we approach November 4th.
“We want to be in a position to field a strong team - we haven’t been able to do that throughout this season - so now that it’s a genuine possibility, I feel the competition for places in the cup final should start now, that’s the way I feel about this.
“I don’t believe that we are in a position to rest players. I think we must be prepared to up our game over the next three weeks and I expect the players to come to training with a real high intensity, firm focus and great determination and repeat what we did back in 2006.”
Barry Molloy is Derry’s only worry for the trip to Tallaght, the central midfielder continuing to nurse a hip flexor problem.