EOGHAN STOKES was on the wrong end of two results for Bohemians against Derry City at Dalymount Park last season and he’s hoping the Candy Stripes’ curse over the Gypsies continues in north Dublin tonight.
The former Leeds United striker had a penalty saved in dramatic fashion by ex-City skipper, Gerard Doherty in the 85th minute as Ronan Curtis’ strike ensured a 1-0 win for the Foylesiders last February. And a 2-1 defeat to City followed in June as the Foylesiders made it seven games unbeaten at the Phibsboro venue.
This time Stokes will be in red and white and, after shaking off a toe injury, he can’t wait to get back out on the Dalymount pitch as he aims to score the first goal past Bohs keeper, James Talbot this season.
“Dalymount is a great place to play but going back there as a former player, playing against them might be a bit weird to see some of the fellas I got along well with last year,” said the Leixlip native.
“For the 90 minutes you put that aside and try to beat them. After the 90, you shake hands and go back to being buddies again. Hopefully I’m on the right end of the result this time.
“I’m playing for Derry City now and I’ll do my best to win the game for Derry. I’ve new mates up here and I’m getting on well with all the lads and I’m going to do my best for them and the manager.
“Both teams are going well and if either one of us wins we can go top of the league. So it should be a good atmosphere in Dalymount. Hopefully we can bring down a good crowd as well and have a good game of football and hopefully get the result.”
Stokes started his Derry career like a house on fire and received a standing ovation at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium for his part in two of the three goals against UCD and an impressive individual performance.
His audacious first strike from just inside the UCD half had the Students scrambling and Conor Kearns ended up deflecting it into his own net. Stokes went on to seal the result with a close range effort and he’s hoping the Dubious Goals Committee credit him with both goals.
“They better be giving me the both of them,” he laughed. “It was a cracking night. I loved it. I couldn’t have started off being at Derry better than that. I scored two, well I’m claiming two anyway.”
The ex-Republic of Ireland U19 international came so close to adding another goal when he tried his luck from 35 yards against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght but saw his effort go narrowly over the bar.
A Rovers defender stood on his foot during that game which exacerbated an infected toe and he had to watch the victory over Waterford at Brandywell from the bench as an unused sub. He’s now back to full fitness after getting half an hour in the second half of the scoreless draw at Turner’s Cross last Friday night.
“I had an infected toe against Rovers and one of the centre halves stood on it, I think it was Lee Grace and it started to swell up on the Saturday,” he explained. “I got the anti-inflammatories into me and thankfully its gone down now and I’m back to 100 per cent after last week. So I’m looking forward to Dalymount on Friday.”
Derry boss, Declan Devine has an embarrassment of riches in the final third with David Parkhouse, Junior Ogedi-Ozokwe, Adrian Delap and Stokes all vying for places and it’s a ‘healthy competition’ the Dubliner believes will get the best out of him.
“Competition is healthy. Every good team always has a lot of players who can play in a lot of positions. I can play anywhere, in midfield or up front so I give a lot of options myself as do a lot of the other boys. It’s all about who wants the jersey the most and who is going to keep it.
“Whoever is putting it in during training every day is the one who is going to be playing on the Friday. We all want to play on the Friday but it’s about who’s showing they want to play.”
Bohemians have started the season superbly with three wins and a draw including, victory over Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount and have yet to concede a goal, but Stokes believes its too soon to get a true reflection of where teams will ultimately challenge in the league standings.
“They’ve had a good start but hopefully we can score against them on Friday night and end that but we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks when you can start to have a proper idea about teams.”
Stokes reflects fondly on his season at Bohs last year following his return from Leeds United but explains he needed a new challenge and felt the perfect fit was Derry City and Devine. Although he’s yet to get to grips with the inclement and unpredictable weather in the North West.
“I went back to Bohs after coming back home from England and I did enjoy it,” he said. “It was a good experience for me to get to know the league and get some first team football and I had some great nights down there and met some great people. I look back at it fondly. We could’ve had a better season but to end up fifth after starting poorly we were happy enough.
“I wanted to experience something different. When Decky came calling about coming to Derry it just seemed a good fit for me and I’m enjoying myself up here. I’m glad I came up, I like the city, I like the lads and the manager so at the minute I’m happy with my decision to come up here.
“It’s mad the weather up here though,” he laughed. “I think for the first three weeks I was up here it rained every day I was here. Decky said it was like summer. I was in Portugal in January too where it was 18 or 19 degrees but the wind here is mad.”
The striker is delighted with how Derry have started the campaign and believes a big win at Dalymount could set down a marker.
“We went down to Turner’s Cross and played good football and the last half hour was a battle. So we showed we can play football and we can battle and to be honest there’s not many teams who will go down to Turner’s Cross and play football. They’re going to be right up there.
“We beat Waterford and they are going to be up there. They got Europe last year. So that’s two good results in a week. We are a young group and we’re getting to know each other more every day which is benefiting us so hopefully things will get even better.”