A DRAW at Richmond Park this evening would guarantee Derry City Europa League football but Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, also has high hopes of finishing in second spot in the Premier Division. (7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Currently one point behind second placed Sligo Rovers, who travel to Dalymount Park this evening to face Bohemians, Kenny hopes to take advantage of any slip-up by the “Bit O’Red” by recording a win against a frustrated St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Still smarting from their shock FAI Cup semi-final defeat at home to Shelbourne in last Monday night’s replay, the Derry boss will certainly expect a backlash, but he refuses to deviate from what’s become office practice and will again attempt to win the game.
“We’re not going to change anything even if a draw will guarantee us European football next season. I don’t think we can approach the match in that frame of mind. All season we’ve travelled to difficult venues with every intention of attempting to win games and that will not change on Friday night,” insisted the Dubliner.
“We’ve been very good away from home this season and I don’t think we can afford to change that in the penultimate league game. I think we’ve got to be positive, take the game to them and try to score.
“Obviously it’s going to be tough down there and they will be well motivated for this fixture as defeat would end their hopes of Europe after losing to Shelbourne on Monday night so we’ll know what to expect,” added the Derry boss.
While St. Pat’s will feel aggrieved at Monday night’s display, when keeper Gary Rogers was red carded having conceded a penalty which brought Shelbourne level, Pete Mahon’s side cannot afford to lose the game, a result which will prove a particularly disappointing campaign for the “Super Saints.”
And while the Dubliners have their difficulties, Derry are not without their troubles on the team front with Stewart Greacen sitting out yesterday’s training session due to a shoulder injury sustained during the 4-0 defeat of Galway at the Brandywell last Sunday night.
“Stewart didn’t train, so we’ll have to wait and see how he is,” confirmed Kenny. “However, Eddie McCallion did train with the group and while the St. Pat’s match may have come a week too early, we’ll have to wait and see how things are.”
Gareth McGlynn and Owen Morrison are definitely ruled out but Ruaidhri Higgins returns to the squad having missed the Galway game due to a family bereavement last weekend.
Should Derry lose the match, then a victory over Bohemians next Friday night would be the “Candy Stripes” only route back to Europe next season.
“A draw would be good enough result for us, but I feel we must try and win it, that’s what we’ve been doing all season and we’re certainly not going to change that attitude at this stage of the campaign.
“Less than two years ago this club almost went out of existence. But, thanks to the community spirit and the hard work of so many, we avoided that.
“Relegated to the First Division, we marched through that campaign in style with a new look team.
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“We won the First Division and then the League Cup while back in the Premier and if Derry City’s name is in the hat for the draw for the 2012/13 Europa League campaign, I think everyone associated with the club will feel a sense of pride.
“That, therefore, is the ambition. To qualify for Europe giving so many young players an opportunity to play in Europe for the first time in their careers would be a major achievement that’s what we want.
“However, at Richmond Park it’s always tough so we’ll have to give everything we have if we are to achieve that.”
Last Chance Saloon For Dubliners
Kenny agreed that St. Pat’s would view this game as the last chance saloon as far as an involvement in Europe is concerned and that would make them dangerous opponents.
“They boast a good home record and for them a win is a must, but I’m not concerned about that. I want us to travel to the game with confidence and make sure we have the necessary passion and determination to battle hard, pass the ball well and take advantage of any scoring opportunities we can create.
“We will try to qualify for the Europa League in style and while we have Bohemians at the Brandywell in our final game of the season next Friday, we can’t afford to look beyond this weekend’s challenge and we’ll try to win the match,” declared the Dubliner.
When questioned on the future of his left-back, Danny Lafferty who, it’s believed, will be watched by both Sunderland and Wigan Athletic tonight, Kenny reiterated last week’s comments.
“No other team has made any contact with me in relation to the movement of any of our players,” he answered. “As far as I’m aware, no one has contacted the chairman despite the speculation and we’re not prepared to comment on speculation. Our total focus is on the St. Pat’s match and we can’t afford to look beyond that,” he concluded.