DECLAN Devine has refused to get involved in a row that’s been brewing with tonight’s FAI Cup opponents, Finn Harps, over the availability of centre-half, Thomas McMonagle, who is a Derry City contracted player.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
With Harps believed to be struggling to have players fit for the derby fixture, it’s understood that the “Candy Stripes” asked the Ballybofey club not to include McMonagle in their line-up for the cup clash despite the fact that he has already represented Harps against Derry in last month’s EA Sports League Cup game.
“My total focus is on the game on Friday night and I’m not getting involved in any arguments over Derry City players who may be out on loan,” said Devine when questioned on the possible use of McMonagle.
“There’s no bad blood between Peter Hutton and myself and there’s no bad blood between the clubs. Finn Harps have been asked by Derry City not to include Thomas McMonagle in their line-up against us in the FAI Cup.
“There is no written agreement on this issue, but the normal procedure is that any player permitted to go out on loan does not play against the club which holds his contract,” said the Derry boss.
“I’m not going to get involved in any argument over this. Harps have been asked not to use him against us in the FAI Cup and given that we allowed him to go out on loan in the first place, we believe Harps will honour our request,” he added.
Should Harps opt to include McMonagle, then it’s possible that Derry will revisit the loan deal but Brandywell insiders hold the view that nothing should be taken for granted against the club’s derby rivals.
Should McMonagle play and, indeed, score the goal in a 1-0 victory following a set-piece situation, then the Derry management would be questioned by their supporters. Other suggest that Derry hope to enjoy a good cup run this year and should the Brandywell club’s injury problems continue, then McMonagle could be called back from his loan spell. However, should be play against Derry, the 21-year-old would be cup-tied and ineligible to play.
Devine, however, refused to discuss the issue and was adamant that Derry City faced a test of their character against Finn Harps this evening.
“During my time, we’ve never had an easy match against Finn Harps be it at Finn Park or in the Brandywell,” he maintained. “They are our derby rivals and while some pundits seem to believe that this cup tie is a ‘gimme,’ I certainly don’t see it that way.
“I’m expecting a tough game and I think that quite a few people are actually under-estimating the rivalry which exits between both clubs.
“I don’t care how many players Harps are missing, there is always a niggle and a special tension when we play them and we certainly cannot afford to take anything for granted in such games,” insisted Devine.
The Derry boss also had his concern over the size of his own squad and, indeed, the number of matches they have played over the past two weeks.
“Our players have been flogged out in recent weeks,” he claimed. “We’ve played four games in 10 days and while I’m absolutely delighted to have bounced back with three league wins on the spin after the Setanta Cup Final defeat, we’ve got to look to the future.
“In those games against Monaghan, Bohemians and Bray Wanderers we’ve shown respect as they are teams below us in the table and while a draw against Finn Harps at the Brandywell is a fantastic way to open our FAI Cup campaign, we’ve got to remember what happened last year and the year before.
“We decided to take a chance in last year’s cup opener against Wexford Youths and we were forced to eat humble pie. The year before we lost out in a replay away to Bray. This year we want to be involved in a cup run, it’s important to the players and to our supporters, therefore nothing will be left to chance and the strongest side we have available will face Harps on Friday night.”
Stewart Greacen and Kevin Deery remain on the sidelines, but both are expected to be well on their way to fitness after the mid-season break.
Barry Molloy and Mark Farren have returned to the panel while Devine received good news in relation to Rory Patterson’s ankle injury.
“Rory’s been to a specialist to assess the damage to his ankle which continues to swell up. However, the doctor is happy that he can continue playing on it provided that he takes a total rest for three weeks which make-up the mid-season break.
“I’m also delighted that Barry (Molloy) and Mark (Farren) are back in the squad and I know that everyone wants to be involved in the Harps game this weekend.
“Obviously, the league’s Transfer Window will open in July and it’s no secret that I will be looking to strengthen the squad at that stage. But we have two matches before the break - against Harps and Shelbourne at the Brandywell - and we certainly would like to record victories in those games.
“Hopefully Stewart Greacen will be ready to return after the break with Kevin Deery not to far behind him and that we are in a position to mount a challenge but at the moment it’s all about Finn Harps and progressing into the next round of the FAI Cup in front of our own supporters.”