THE visit of Limerick to Brandywell Stadium tonight is, according to Derry City boss, Declan Devine, one of the most important matches of the current campaign.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The “Candy Stripes” must then refocus on yet another vital league fixture this Monday afternoon at the Sligo Showgrounds, matches which could well prove significant as the Airtricity Premier Division moves into its second series of games.
Devine, who understandably refuses to discuss the Bank Holiday Monday fixture, has his concerns with the Shannonsiders as he specifically drove to Bray recently to watch Stuart Taylor’s side in action - and he was very impressed.
“They are a decent side,” said the Creggan man last night. “They have quite a few attacking options in their panel and given their results to date, I really do believe Limerick could prove the dark horses of the season and, indeed, finish in the top half of the Premier Division table,” he added.
Devine agreed that he had to work hard on his preparation for the Limerick visit given that quite a few of the club’s players were not known to him.
“They have added players from Scotland and England to their panel, players who we would not of been aware of, so we had to prepare well, hence the drive to the Carlyle Grounds a few Sundays ago.
“They defeated Bray 4-0 and, if the truth be told, they really could have won by much more. Limerick have also held Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers and while their only defeat on the road occurred in the Sligo Showgrounds, they were denied a stonewall penalty during injury time at the end of the game,” noted the Derry boss.
“So this match is significant as far as I am concerned. I actually think it could be the most important match of our season to date as Limerick are really an unknown quantity and we must be fully focused if we are to achieve our objective of winning three points.”
With two matches to be played over the space of four days, the Derry boss must take into account the short recovery period after tonight’s fixture and, indeed, arrange his troops accordingly.
But with Limerick the most important match on the horizon, Devine will field his strongest side and then think about Sligo come 9.45 p.m. this evening.
“The strongest side we have available will play against Limerick,” he confirmed. “We have a few players carrying a few minor injuries, but if they are not fully fit to play in the game, then changes will be made.
“Sean Houston is back in the panel having come off the bench during last weekend’s fixture at Richmond Park. He’s had no problems with his hamstring injury and he is now available for selection having been involved in every training session this week.”
And while Stewart Greacen was also involved in this week’s training sessions, Devine believes tonight’s game may well have come too soon for the robust Scot.
“Stewart had trained with the squad this and appears to be well on his way back to full fitness having had a knee operation. However, it’s been quite some time since he has played a game and, therefore, the Limerick match probably arrives too soon for him. However, our medical team will assess him before the kick-off on Friday night.”