Former QPR midfielder Marc Bircham takes charge of his first game with the Blues on the back of a 7-0 loss to Drogheda United when the club fielded its under-19s and the award of a 3-0 walkover to Sligo Rovers last week due to an outbreak of coronavirus among their first team squad.
Limerick native Fitzgerald doesn’t believe the enforced period of self-isolation will negatively affect the Waterford team. In fact he reckons the Waterford players will be ‘desperate’ to get back on the pitch and impress the new manager.
“Waterford, with a new manager and coming out of quarantine can be quite dangerous and they will be chomping at the bit to get down on that lovely pitch at the RSC and play the football they’ve so desperately missed out on this last couple of weeks.
“Any away game in the league is going to be difficult,” he added. “There’s been fine margins between teams. We don’t know too much about the new manager or what his style of football is or how he wants them to line up but with Brian Murphy back in goals he’s always going to be a huge help.
“We’re just going to go down there and prepare well. We know we’re going to be in for a battle but we’re confident in our away form at the moment and looking forward to showing the fans what we can do with another good away performance.”
Derry’s form on the road has been impressive since manager Ruaidhri Higgins took charge with seven points garnered from a possible nine after trips to Sligo Rovers, Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
Fitzgerald has fond memories of playing at the RSC with Waterford but after three months on Foyleside the winger considers himself an honorary Derry man and is intent on bringing three points back to the North West tonight.
He celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday with a trip to the gym, a couple of buns with teammates and a catch-up with family members over the telephone. Low key celebrations but three points from his former stomping ground would be the perfect birthday present.
“It’ll be nice to get down closer to home but I’m really enjoying it here and it’s mad to think it can feel like home after such a short period of time up here in Derry but I think that’s just the nature of the place and the people up here so I’ve really enjoyed it.”
With the gradual easing of restrictions, he’s beginning to get a sense of what the city has to offer and can’t wait to experience more.
“I look forward to exploring more of Derry but from what I’ve seen so far it’s a beautiful city. There’s some nice little spots for coffee and lunch and that so once the restrictions relax further than they have now then I’ll get the chance to get about and see the place a bit more.”
The Derry team travelled to Waterford on Thursday afternoon in preparation of Friday night's game and Fitzgerald was relishing the prospect of returning to another city he has a strong affiliation with.
“I had a good year and a half there and enjoyed it very much as a man and a player. There’s some good people down at that club and I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces but as soon as kick-off begins we’ll be all business and trying to get the three points.”
Victory would be a significant one going into Monday night’s home clash with St Pat’s and an opportunity to open up a seven point advantage on Waterford at the bottom and keep on the coattails of the four teams directly above them.
Fitzgerald believes the team can take confidence from their performance against champions Shamrock Rovers last weekend and admits the team feel confident going into the game.
“We’re playing for Derry City Football Club, one of the biggest clubs in the country. It’s a massive football city, and I’ve seen it since I’ve been here from day one. So it has to be our aim to push up the table.”
“And I think things are starting to come together. I think Ruaidhri knows that and the coaching staff knows that and the players are really buying into an exciting few weeks and months ahead.
“Hopefully we can start that off with three points against Waterford and then focus on St Pat’s after that and then the game before the break (Drogheda away). After the break we can come back and really look ahead of us and not behind us.”
“The form on the road has been quite good and the manager has put that across to us that he’s been delighted with our away form. We’re looking forward to the game and our full focus is on getting the three points. We’re going down to win the match and then we can focus on St Pat’s afterwards.
“We’re just looking forward to going down to Waterford now and trying to do the same. Put in a good hard working performance and hopefully the result will take care of itself.”