Former Derry City defender Ally Gilchrist expects Cork City to 'rise to the challenge' at Brandywell
ALLY Gilchrist believes newly promoted Cork City must look beyond simply staying in the division this season and has warned his former club Derry City the Rebels won't be easily turned over tonight.
The 27-year-old Scottish defender has settled into life on Leeside with his Cork-born girlfriend Megan having made his way around the country from Dublin (Shamrock Rovers) to Derry, back to Dublin (Shelbourne) and finally to Cork where it now feels like home.
The former St Johnstone defender spent two seasons on Foyleside and fondly remembers his first campaign at the club in 2019.
In fact it was the year where he 'most enjoyed his football' under then manager Declan Devine.
Since leaving the club in 2020 he's gone on to win back-to-back First Division titles with Shelbourne and Cork and having returned to the top flight he's not even contemplating a quick-fire return.
And despite an opening day 2-1 defeat at home to a dominant Bohemians, Gilchrist believes Colin Healy's troops should be setting their sights on Europe this term given the size and history of the club.
"I think you have to have those motivations to try and get there because we're not here to just try and stay in the league," he said. "The size of the club and the backing we have, we shouldn't be just looking at staying up.
"That might be a realistic viewpoint for a lot of people but as a group we've got to look up the ways and really challenge ourselves to get that.
"As players we have to be ambitious. Our aim shouldn’t be to avoid relegation, we have to aim higher than that. We have to be looking for as best as we can."
As a former Candy Stripe, Gilchrist is delighted for the fans and the city to see the club achieve success and once again become a force in Irish football under Ruaidhri Higgins.
He believes a strong Derry City can only be good for the league.
"It's only good for the league and it's really good to see a former club of mine like Derry doing so well.
"I think the city deserves it and the fans deserve it because they've got that proper hardcore group of fans and it's good to see Derry back up there. Years gone by they were up there challenging but it's been a while.
"So it's good to see them doing well. They deserved the FAI Cup and it was brilliant to see a few of the boys I played with enjoy that day and do well. I'm looking forward to coming back up.
"I look back at that first year when Decky came in during 2019 and I really loved it. We had such a good group of lads and we all worked our socks off for each other - that was the main thing.
"We ended up getting Europe that year and I remember that group of lads all played for the club, all played for each other and Decky was brilliant, all the staff were brilliant. So I remember that first year fondly.
"The second year was a bit more frustrating. It was the Covid year and I broke my ankle halfway through that year. So it was a bit of a frustrating end and I thought it was time to move on that year. That first year was probably the most I enjoyed playing my football."
He may still have a soft spot for Derry but he's not prepared to lie down when the teams go head-to-head tonight.
Gilchrist didn't play when Cork were dumped out of the FAI Cup at the second round stage at Brandywell last season as goals from Sadou Diallo and Will Patching saw Derry progress on their way to winning the competition.
The Scotsman believes Cork didn't give a good account of themselves on that occasion and promises a much improved performance this time around.
"That cup game last year was a tough one. To be honest we had our eyes on the league a bit more but we wanted to give ourselves a better showing in that game. I don't think we did ourselves justice.
"We were all a bit down after that game because we wanted to put on a better show. Hopefully we can do that on Friday. We will try and make it as hard as we can. We certainly won't be laying down easily. The lads at Derry will know that and we're expecting the same. It will be a tough game.
"You'd be daft not to expect a tough challenge. Everybody knows how good Derry are. They've got Ruaidhri Higgins and Rennie (Alan Reynolds) who I know well who are running a tight ship there.
"They've got a lot of good players and they've strengthened the dressing room as well so it's going to be tough. The pitch is big and the boys at Derry are good with the ball. It will be a challenge but we have to rise to it.
"There's no real easy games in the league at all, there really isn't but I think we're all looking forward to Friday night with the atmosphere and we want to challenge ourselves at the highest level and we will do that at Brandywell.”