FAI Cup Final: Pat Fenlon predicts bright future for Derry City

Former Derry City manager Pat Fenlon believes the future is looking bright for Ruaidhrí Higgins' Candy Stripes.

Having won every domestic honour as a player before managing both of Sunday's FAI Cup finalists, Fenlon is in a unique position to gauge the two clubs' potential. He succeeded Stephen Kenny in the Brandywell hot-seat in 2007 and while things didn't work out as he would have wished during his short tenure, the Dubliner is pleased the feel good factor is back at the club.

"Derry are financially in a really good position," insisted Fenlon, "They've got a homegrown manager who's a good manager with a good coaching team around him and they've got some really good players.

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"They've brought the identity back into the team by bringing the likes of (Michael) Duffy and (Patrick) McEleney back. They were very shrewd moves from a playing point of view, but also that identity is important.

"They've got a lot of good young players as well which probably goes back to the time of Stephen (Kenny) when the club was always producing decent local players.

"From the Shels point of view, they've had new investment and got promoted so, look, they're two big clubs both desperate for a trophy. It's a hard one to call because there are different agendas but I think if Shels can win it and get into Europe, then that's a brilliant season for them.

"If Derry win it, then it gives them confidence going forward but I'm not sure confidence is going to be lacking at Derry going forward because they've obviously got the resources to challenge Rovers and they've got a lot of good players. In Ruaidhrí they've got a very astute, young manager."

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Derry City manager Pat Fenlon makes his way onto the pitch at the Brandywell for their Setanta Cup game against Linfield in 2007.Derry City manager Pat Fenlon makes his way onto the pitch at the Brandywell for their Setanta Cup game against Linfield in 2007.
Derry City manager Pat Fenlon makes his way onto the pitch at the Brandywell for their Setanta Cup game against Linfield in 2007.
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The 53-year-old Dubliner, who will be working at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, admits he would love the final to be a classic but feels it may not be a game for the purists.

"It will be another close game. Looking at the games already this season, that's the way they've all panned out," he explained.

"It's a really big game for both clubs but they are at two different stages of rebuilding as such. Derry are further down the road than Shels are and obviously, when you're in a situation like Ruaidhrí who is building a team to challenge for a league title, winning a competition gives you that belief and desire to go on and challenge (Shamrock) Rovers even more next year.

"Having been in the doldrums for a while, Shels have now the new take over with new investment and a new manager. They got themselves promoted and a cup final for them and a European place would be fantastic from where they've been over the last few years.

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"It's an interesting final. It's going to be tight but most people are probably tipping Derry though it's a really hard one to call because Shels are well set-up to play against Derry, because of the way Derry play.

"I'm looking forward to the game but I'm not sure it's going to be a classic. If there is an early goal it does open up a little bit but the longer it goes without a goal everybody gets a little more edgy because they don't want to lose the cup. As I said, it's a really difficult game to call.

"I've seen both sides a bit this year. I saw Derry at Rovers a few weeks ago and thought they struggled to get people into the box and Shels are defensively fairly solid, so it's going to be interesting."

With Matty Smith not available for Damien Duff's side because of his loan agreement with City, the ex-Hibernian boss feels that's could prove a major blow for Shels.

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"Matty Smith is going to be a big loss. When he's in the team he gives them different options," admitted the former Shamrock Rovers boss, "He doesn't play that sort of out and out wide player. He comes into positions that can cause you problems.

"Now obviously they have got forwards who have come into a bit of form. Sean Boyd, whom I know well, is finding a bit of form. Jack Moylan is also a very good player, so they've got players to score goals alright, but I think Smith is a big loss which suits Derry obviously.

"However Shels will be looking at Derry and thinking if they can keep Duffy and McEleney quiet then they have a real chance. That's easier said than done though."