KEVIN Deery may be well on his way to recording 300 competitive appearances for his home town club, but the Derry City captain has now been presented with an opportunity to put what has been a frustrating season behind him.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
It’s no secret that the Creggan man has been plagued with injury problems over recent seasons and when such injuries necessitated surgery during the current campaign, the player also dropped into the depths of depression.
However, having since been nursed back to full fitness and having played in several of Derry’s end of season fixtures, the central midfielder insists he has much to bring to the Derry City table in the Aviva Stadium this Sunday.
Deery was declared my clear-cut “man of the match” during the 2008 FAI Cup Final defeat in the RDS against Bohemians after a penalty shoot-out, but having missed one of those spotkicks after extra-time, he still feels the pain.
“That was a heart-breaking occasion for me,” said Kevin. “I still believe that we deserved to win that match but having missed a penalty, it was a very sore night for me. We played so well as a team in the game and while a few refereeing decisions clearly went against us, I still felt we did more than enough to win the cup.
“But that’s what happens in finals, the match can go either way. Now I’m just so happy to have a cup final to look forward to especially after the season I’ve experienced,” he added.
Picking up an injury is one thing, but when the medical team tell you that surgery is required, it’s a totally different story.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but when surgery comes into play it can get so frustrating. It takes so long for a full recovery. It’s back to scratch in rehab, building up muscles and it can prove to be very difficult, even soul destroying.
“Thank God it’s behind me and have got a few games under my belt, I’m fit again. If selected to play in the final, I will see that as a reward for keeping my head despite the injury problems . I’ll also be getting a chance to put the 2008 result behind me having missed that penalty,” he smiled.
“I’m delighted I got back to play the final six or seven of our remaining games and those results have been good. They have given us the momentum we needed as the focus on the final.
“I think I’ve proved my fitness, but the decison on whether I will play or not is down to Declan Devine and Paul Hegarty, it’s up to them and I will respect whatever decision they make,” added the skipper.
“Obviously, I’m busting a gut to play. I want to lead Derry City out onto the pitch and I make no secret of that fact. I believe I have an important role to play and to be in a position to lift the FAI Cup trophy after the final whistle would be a dream come true for me as a Derry man.”
Delighted to have returned to good health, Deery also had to question himself on his future in the game which, at one stage, seemed to suggest that a move to full-time football in England was imminent before those injury problems struck.
Indeed, Wesley Hoolahan, now playing prominently in the Barclay’s Premiership in England with Norwich City, suggested in the English Press that Kevin Deery “possessed all the qualities required to play at the top level in England” as the Dubliner regularly competed against the Creggan man when representing Shelbourne in days gone by.
“I had to question myself and, of course, my future having struggled with injury problems over recent seasons I’m now 27-years-old and while I’ve been playing senior football for almost 10 years, winning the FAI Cup this year would give me so much pleasure. God knows, I’ve been down and I’ve been frustrated but that’s all behind me now.
“I’m certainly not looking at doom and gloom. This weekend I will be involved with a fantastic group of footballers, young and old, travelling to take part in a massive occasion in the Aviva Stadium.
“While I will be involved with the team, another massive group will be travelling to Dublin to support us and even if I’m not selected to play, I would honestly sacrifice the captaincy - which I hold in high regard - just as long as we bring the trophy home with us after the final whistle.”