Derry City's Mark Connolly only focused on Cork City tie

Defender Mark Connolly says Derry City can’t afford to start dreaming about November’s Extra.ie FAI Cup Final and must remain focused on one game at a time, starting tonight’s visit of First Division leaders, Cork City.

Mark Connolly opened his Derry City goalscoring account against Oliver Bond Celtic in the last round.
Mark Connolly opened his Derry City goalscoring account against Oliver Bond Celtic in the last round.

The centre-back, who scored his first Candy Stripes goal against Oliver Bond Celtic in the last round, is expecting a tough encounter against Colin Healy’s men who currently sit seven points clear at the top of the First Division.

The 30-year-old knows the Rebel Army are coming to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium full of confidence and with a winning habit this season.

“It would be brilliant and, listen, we all have our goals and our dreams,” insisted Connolly, “But even though it’s the old cliché, we just have to focus on the next game and that’s Cork City.

“We can’t look past this Friday’s game. Every team is competitive and every team can cause an upset if you aren’t at it, so to be honest, our focus is only on Friday night.

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“Cork City are flying high, they are winning games and, yes, they might be in the league below but when you’re winning games it breeds confidence. They’ll have that because they’re winning and they are used to winning games.

“Listen, if we win on Friday night then we’ll reassess where we’re at. Yes, ideally we want to get to the Aviva. We want to bring the whole of Derry to Dublin for the final and we want to win the cup, but there are still a few tough rounds before that, starting on Friday against Cork because it’s going to be a tough one.

“I certainly don’t think it’s a Premier Division team playing a First Division team type tie because Cork are a very, very strong team. I don’t think they should be in that division.

“Looking at the First Division, Cork will probably be in the Premier Division next season which would be brilliant for the Premier Division to get them back in.

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“Speaking to a few of the boys who have played against them, they’re a fantastic football club with a great fan base. It would be brilliant to get them back in the Premier Division and Friday night isn’t going to be easy.

“We aren’t looking at it as us being in the Premier Division and them being in the division below, it’s purely us playing Cork City who are a very, very strong team so, yeah, it’s going to be a tough one.”

The former Dundalk defender says that boss Ruaidhrí Higgins is determined to succeed with the Candy Stripes and Connolly believes the squad is good enough.

“From my first time meeting Ruaidhrí and getting to know him a bit more, you can see he has come to Derry City to win stuff,” he stated, “He’s not just here to improve and stuff like that, he wants to put out as strong team as he can and try and win every competition he’s going to play in which is the right way to do it.

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“I don’t think they’ll be many people rested for Friday as it’s a massive cup game and this club wants to win silverware, whether that’s the league or cup. We want to be back in the Aviva, hopefully with plenty of Derry City fans but it’s going to take a big effort to do that, starting with Friday night’s game against Cork, so we have to be at it.

“Ruaidhrí has brought together a young, fresh group with a lot of young boys who have been given a chance and I’m sure they’ll want to repay him. I feel the manager is definitely up there with the best in this league. I’m sure he’s going to be successful and I’m hoping in my time here we can be successful together.”

The ex-Dundalk man, who joined the Candy Stripes last month, has settled into life on Foyleside well and can’t wait for his wife and family to join him in the coming weeks.

“It’s been brilliant,” he said. “But it has obviously been a bit of a change by officially coming away from Dundee United and moving back. I was back living with my mother in Clones but I’m now up in Derry living. I’m still waiting for my wife and kids to move over and getting the house sorted but the football side of it and the football club side of it has been absolutely fantastic.

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“The people at the club, and also the people of Derry, have made me very welcome. The club really has been outstanding with me, the manager and the players have also been fantastic.”

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