Derry City's Spanish tour at 'football resort' perfect preparation for 2023 campaign: says Michael Duffy
After their pre-season Billy Kee Memorial Cup clash with Institute fell victim to the weather and Sunday's friendly with Finn Harps became a procession, Ruaidhri Higgins' squad were delighted to touch down on Spanish soil on Tuesday morning where the FAI Cup champions prepared to face a couple of stern examinations of their credentials.
Kicking off with a 1-0 defeat to Luxembourg's FC Swift Hesperange at the impressive Pinatar Arena in Murcia on Wednesday afternoon, Derry will use the opportunity to get plenty of work on the training pitch and gym at their state-of-the-art training base before taking on Danish Superliga outfit Aalborg BK on Sunday.
The four-star Oliva Nova Golf and Beach Resort is a familiar location for Duffy, Will Patching, Cameron Dummigan and Patrick McEleney who spent pre-season there with Dundalk in recent years alongside Higgins who was assistant boss at the time, and he's delighted to be back making the most of the pleasant weather, luxurious surroundings and games against high-calibre opposition.
It's proven to be a fantastic bonding experience for the squad if nothing else and Duffy believes the work done this week in Spain and the challenges against two top teams will stand them in good stead for their President's Cup meeting with league champions Shamrock Rovers on February 10th.
"It's class," said Duffy of the club's training base. "It has everything there, it's a football resort really. The pitches are quality and there's a gym. But it's good for the group too for team bonding.
"We're with each other the whole week, training once or twice a day, there's a pool and there's a bit of craic as well. It's important and I'm buzzing we get to do it and getting the two games against big teams will benefit us.
"This week is massive for us and so important because when we come back the league will be starting in no time. Two weeks to the Rovers game will fly in and then we're off and running.”
Talking about running, there’s been plenty of that during an arduous pre-season so far and Duffy and most likely the rest of the Derry squad, are delighted to be finally kicking a ball and getting valuable minutes under their belt.
“It's been a tough few weeks and we knew it was going to be,” added the winger. “So when the match got called off last Wednesday we were gutted because it meant more runs for a day," he laughed.
"At least we played 45 each against Finn Harps, some boys got more and we have the two games this week while we're away as well so this will be good for us."Duffy netted twice in that 6-0 thrashing of an experimental Harps side managed by ex-Candy Stripe Dave Rogers at Brandywell but the level of opposition in Spain this week will be a better gauge of where exactly their fitness levels are at.
"These will be different kinds of games but that's what you want. You want to play against better teams that will test us and will be good for our European preparation as well where we will be playing against these types of teams.”