Mark Connolly says Derry City must dare to dream of Aviva Stadium showpiece

MARK CONNOLLY believes Derry City players and supporters must dare to dream of reaching the FAI Cup Final this season despite facing the toughest path to the Aviva Stadium.

The former Dundee United defender believes he made the right decision to join the Brandywell club on a long term deal in the summer with the Candy Stripes and City boss Ruaidhri Higgins matching his own ambitions to win silverware.

Derry host Shamrock Rovers on Sunday seeking to knock the favourites out of the competition and move one step closer to that November 13th showpiece at the National Stadium. And Connolly has promised to ‘give it absolutely everything’ to reach the last four.

“Everyone in the dressing room and at the football club wants to win trophies,” said Connolly, who scored a debut goal in the competition against Oliver Bond Celtic.

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“I’ve come here to win trophies and I feel like I’ve come to a place where we will do that. It may take time but I’m praying that it’s this year.

“Myself and all the boys will give it absolutely everything on Sunday to make sure we’re still in with a shout to do that. You’ve got to dream as a football player and as football fans, especially at this football club,” added the Clones man.

“You’ve got to give the fans that bit of hope. If you don’t give them hope, then there’s no point turning up. We will give it absolutely everything to get this club to the Aviva.

“Obviously it’s one step at a time and Sunday’s going to be difficult but if we’re at it then we can go through.”

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Mark Connolly has had a steadying influence on the Derry City defence since his arrival and he's intent on winning silverware.

Derry let Rovers off the hook in the league when the teams last met at Brandywell last August when Will Patching missed a penalty on a night keeper Alan Manus produced an inspired individual display for the Dubliners who left with a point.

Connolly believes Derry can take huge confidence from that performance as they go into Sunday’s match on the back of a five match winning run in all competitions.

“It’s full focus now on Sunday. That game was on the backburner until the Sligo game. Now we can get our heads around Sunday which will be difficult. The form we’re in, we’ve got to make sure we look after ourselves, get ready for Sunday and I’m sure the boys will be at it.

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“They’re a good team. They will have played on Thursday but they have enough good players to rotate. If we’re at it then I’d fancy ourselves. When we played them here in the second half I don’t know how we didn’t win the game.

Mark Connolly pictured on his Derry City debut in the FAI Cup first round against Oliver Bond Celtic.

“It’s about winning matches, winning cups and winning leagues and that’s what we’re all here for. I couldn’t personally care what way we’re playing as long as we’re winning football matches. At the moment we’re on a very strong run. I don’t think the boys have been beaten in 13 or 14 matches now. We’re doing well but we’ve got to keep grinding it out.”

Connolly has provided a steadying influence since arriving and knows if Derry can keep it solid at the back against Rovers, the team has enough firepower in its ranks to score goals.

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“When you look at it as a team now, we’ve got a very strong team. The boys are playing very, very well. All of a sudden you see boys coming off the bench and they’re very, very strong. So it’s good but we’ve got to be relentless, keep at it and obviously as a defender keeping clean sheets is ideal. If we can keep it solid, then we have more than enough players in this team to score goals.”