Ruaidhri Higgins' 'outpouring of relief' as Derry City end nine years of European hurt with victory over HB Torshavn

RUAIDHRI Higgins admitted experiencing 'an outpouring of relief' at the final whistle as Derry City finally ended nine years of hurt in European competition.
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The Brandywell club progressed through a round in Europe for just the SIXTH time in its history with a 1-0 aggregate victory over HB Torshavn of the Faroe Islands, ranked 83 places above them in Uefa's coefficient rankings.

Higgins has been involved as a player in FOUR of those ties, against Gothenborg, Gretna, Skonto Riga and also in the squad who defeated Welsh minnows Aberystwyth Town 9-0 over two legs the last time the Candy Stripes progressed past the first round of European competition back in 2014.

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In his second venture in Europe as manager Higgins was desperate to improve on the club's record on the continent, claiming Derry City are 'too big of a club' to be continually knocked out at the first hurdle.

Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins salutes fans.Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins salutes fans.
Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins salutes fans.

"Obviously it's the first time in nine years we've got through a round in Europe. That was the objective," said the City boss.

"Honestly it was really important to me, not just to me but everyone connected to the club. I wanted to get that off our back, the nine years, it was doing my head in.

"It's brilliant. There's a real connection with the club and the city at the minute and long may that continue. Going through rounds in Europe obviously helps that as well so I'm delighted for everyone who supports the club, involved with the club, players, staff, directors, chairman, supporters.

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"Our supporters love being involved in European football and I'm delighted that we can give them another round to look forward to."

Torshavan keeper Bjarti Mork denies Derry City's  Brandon Kavanagh. Photo: George SweeneyTorshavan keeper Bjarti Mork denies Derry City's  Brandon Kavanagh. Photo: George Sweeney
Torshavan keeper Bjarti Mork denies Derry City's Brandon Kavanagh. Photo: George Sweeney

Chairman Philip O'Doherty has invested heavily in recent seasons to bring success to Foyleside and Higgins has delivered with a first FAI Cup triumph in 10 years.

The club are guaranteed at least £350,000 in prize money after navigating their way into the second round qualifying phase and Higgins was delighted that Mr O'Doherty has received a return on his substantial investment.

"We're too big of a club and obviously with the chairman it was important to give something back as well. It's a brilliant night for the football club. I'm absolutely delighted for people like Philip O'Doherty with the investment he puts into the football club.

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"It's nice to be able to give something back in terms of finances and stuff like that so it's brilliant for people like Philip and all the players, the staff and supporters. You could see the joy in peoples' faces at full-time and that's what it's all about."

Higgins paid tribute to the packed Brandywell attendance for helping his team over the line.

"I thought they were brilliant. Even the frustration of not getting that second goal and going on to win the game more comfortably, they stuck with us. In the last 10 minutes when they were putting long throws in our box and punting the ball in our box they got right behind us and seen us over the line.”

Sadou Diallo's 23rd minute header ultimately decided the tie after 180 minutes but while Torshavn had their chances in the first leg, Derry really should've been out of sight at Brandywell with Cameron McJannet and Jamie McGonigle in particular missing opportunities to put the game to bed.

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That paved the way for a late, desperate attempt from the Faroese to bombard Derry's penalty area with long throw-ins and lumping the ball into the box and Higgins admitted it was a nervous finale to a game which should've been a lot more comfortable.

With Finnish outfit KuPs up next in the second round qualifier next week at Brandywell, Higgins warned his team must be more clinical if they're to continue their run in Europe.

"The game should've been out of sight," he said. "It should never have gotten into the last 20 minutes. Whenever you let it get to that point the ground becomes nevry, the players start hanging on to what we've got.

"It should've been four or five at that stage. If we're to progress again in Europe then you have to be more clinical and more ruthless."

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Higgins had sent club coach Gerard Boyle on a scouting mission to Finland to watch KuPs last week and while they must first turn their attention to the defence of the FAI Cup against Athlone on Sunday on Foyleside, the City boss knows a hugely difficult task awaits his troops.

"Gone are the days when you could disrespect clubs from other nations. You look at last night when Klaksvik, the top team in the Faroes, absolutely wiped the floor with Ferencváros who are a monstrous club in Hungary, they're a huge club and they've gone and put them out convincingly. If that doesn't show people that these teams are no mugs then nothing will.

"We didn't take them lightly and to be fair I thought the players for the first 70 minutes were excellent. Listen we got over the line in the end but if we want to progress again we need to be more clinical.

"Gerard Boyle travelled out to see (KuPs)," he added. "He's done a lot of homework in the background and I haven't looked at any of that but obviously I will. We've got Sunday which is a 5pm kick-off so we have Sunday night and all day Monday before the players come back in on Tuesday to get them ready.

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"I'm sure the office staff, Dodie (McGuinness) and Bert (Martin), will be busy now over the next day or two trying to work on arrangements but it's my job to refocus and prepare the team for Sunday against Athlone."