STEPHEN McLaughlin admitted Sunday’s semi-final arrived too soon after his recovery from a groin injury but he’s hoping to announce his return with a big performance at Tolka Park tomorrow night.
SIMON COLLINS reports
Derry boss, Declan Devine surprised many when his team was announced prior to kick-off on Sunday afternoon with the inclusion of Rory Patterson and McLaughlin following long-term absences.
It was a gamble which failed to pay off as the pair clearly lacked match sharpness but McLaughlin, who has been a pivotal player for Devine this season, claims he will be raring to go when the teams re-engage in battle for a place in the FAI Ford Cup Final.
“Personally I found it tough,” said McLaughlin afterwards. “It was my first game back in three weeks or so. I was ready to come back, I’ve recovered from my injury but I just didn’t have enough time for my fitness and it showed.
“I tried my best but I let myself and my team down,” he added. “The team worked extremely hard and I felt we got what we deserved and we could even have pushed on and won it.
“Normally when you have an injury you have two or three weeks to get your fitness back up but I just recovered on Friday and started training which was my first training session in three weeks.
“So it kind of came too early for me but I tried my best. It’s a good game to get under my belt and I think I’ll be ready to go now come Wednesday again.
“I got about 80 minutes or so, so it will set me in good stead for the replay down in Shels.”
The Isle of Doagh man was at a loss to explain Derry’s slow start to Sunday’s semi-final: “We were fully focused and ready to go when we left the changing rooms so I don’t know what happened whether it was nerves or something that kicked in.
“Whenever they scored we changed and we kind of got a new lease of life and started playing our football. They never really looked like they would score again.
“At half-time Declan reminded us that we were 1-0 down in the Linfield game in the Setanta Cup and came out and won 3-1 and thankfully we managed to turn it around.”
Last season’s defeated finalists, Shelbourne hold no fears for McLaughlin and he insists that they can put in their performance of the season to secure a place in the 2012 showpiece at the Aviva Stadium on November 4th.
“If everyone was fit then I think we would’ve beat them no problem on Sunday but that wasn’t the case.
“We’re still in the cup, that’s all that matters. It’s another game on Wednesday and we’re all looking forward to it.
“Tolka Park will be a tough place to go but we’re more than capable of going down there and getting the right result. Come Wednesday there will be a couple of more players back to fitness including myself.”