RORY Hale reckons Dinamo Minsk are in for a shock if they’re expecting to meet a typically pragmatic, long ball Irish team when they arrive at Brandywell Stadium on Thursday night.
The Belfast native is relishing the Candy Stripes’ Europa League first round qualifier against the Belarusians and hopes they can surprise the Eastern Europeans with their expansive style and a sense of abandon as they seek to keep the tie alive going into the return leg next week in Minsk.
It’s one of the reasons he decided to move to Foyleside from Galway United at the start of the season and he’s excited about testing himself on the European stage for the first time.
Dinamo boss, Sergei Gurenko is expecting an ‘uncomfortable’ game of ‘power football’ and is preparing his side for lots of long balls and aerial contests.
And while City are massive underdogs, Hale is hoping Derry can catch them off guard and he’d be delighted if the Candy Stripes can secure a positive result on the expansive Brandywell pitch.
“This is why I’ve signed for the club - to play in the big games,” said the midfielder. “This is what attracted me to come to Derry, was playing in Europe and playing in brilliant ties.”
I’ve heard their manager thought we were a normal Irish League team who hoof the ball and all but he’ll be in for a shock when he sees that we actually play a bit on this big pitch.Rory Hale
And he’s been busy doing his own homework on the Belarusians who are currently on a seven game unbeaten run and sitting pretty in second place behind league leaders, BATE Borisov who pipped them to the title last season.
“I looked into Dinamo Minsk a little bit myself and they’re doing well,” added the former Aston Villa man. “They lost the league on goal difference to BATE Borisov so it’s going to be a tough, tough game.
“If we nick a 0-0 draw here I’d be absolutely delighted. If we can bring something into the second leg I’d be loving that.
“I’ve heard their manager thought we were a normal Irish League team who hoof the ball and all but he’ll be in for a shock when he sees that we actually play a bit on this big pitch. Listen I can’t wait. That’s what you live for and let’s hope it’s a packed out Brandywell as well.”
Much has been made about supporters’ threats to boycott Thursday’s game due to increased ticket prices but Hale understands the apathy surrounding the club at present given the poor performances.
However, he’s hoping the return of European football to Brandywell Stadium for the first time since 2014 will lift the gloom and entice the fans to come out in force.
“We’ve seen that this season, against Waterford, Cork, Rovers and the Bohs game where it’s been absolutely packed out even on a Monday night. Performances haven’t been good enough,” he said honestly.
“I know people say we’re a young team and all but we need to wise up sooner or later.
“I didn’t see what the Chairman was saying but it is what it is. Hopefully the fans can turn out on Thursday night and keep us going.
“It was a decent crowd tonight (against Limerick) especially given the way we’ve been playing and the poor results, so fair play to them and I hope they can come out again on Thursday night.”
Hale has been a mainstay in the middle of the park for Derry this season and on Friday night he played in a more advanced role against Limerick and admits he could’ve had a hat-trick.
He was unfortunate on 72 minutes when his right footed strike from the edge of the penalty area struck the inside of the post with Holland beaten but it somehow managed to bounce across the goalmouth and out of play.
“Kenny’s (Shiels) trusted me in there all season,” said Hale. “He’s played me holding, centre and tonight he played me in the No. 10 role which I absolutely loved getting more of the ball, getting on the half turn and creating chances. I should’ve scored a hat-trick.
“Kenny’s been brilliant with me. Even when I have a bad game he’s still throwing me in there. He knows how good I am.
Competition with Dean (Shiels) and Aaron Splaine coming in will only push me on even better and I’ll work even harder to keep my place.”
It was a much needed result - a first win since June 8th when Hale netted his first Derry City goal against Bohemians in the 2-1 victory at Dalymount. The 2-1 win over Limerick was a timely win going into Thursday’s Europa League tie and the character shown to come from behind bodes well.
“It’s the first game all season we’ve came from behind and won. Maybe that will give us more confidence knowing we don’t drop the heads when we go a goal down,” he added.
“We needed that. We know ourselves how good we are when we get going. It was just confidence was low and we’re not getting the rub of the green. The last two games just weren’t good enough but there has been a lot of competition in training for places. Let’s just hope the standard in training continues and we look forward to Thursday now.”