Ruaidhri Higgins says Derry City rivals Finn Harps are in the mix in race for Europe
RUAIDHRI HIGGINS believes Finn Harps are very much ‘in the mix’ for European qualification and accused Ollie Horgan of playing down the Ballybofey club’s potential.
In-form Harps make the short trip to Foyleside tonight on the back of six straight wins in all competitions, including a 1-0 win over Derry which dumped the Candy Stripes out of the FAI Cup.
Another win over Higgins’ troops would see Harps climb to within three points of Derry with 11 games to go and the City boss has no doubt Horgan will be privately targeting European qualification.
“Finn Harps, in their last two league games, have defeated the top two and beaten them quite comfortably to be honest,” said Higgins. “I know they will play their form down, as they do, but I think if people are asking me about Derry City having the potential to qualify for Europe, then they should be asking Ollie Horgan about Finn Harps qualifying for Europe. If we’re in the mix, then they’re in the mix, it’s as simple as that.
“I know they play it down very, very well but make no mistake about it, they will have an eye on it as well.”
The former City midfielder has previously stated Horgan’s side is the best Finn Harps team he’s seen in the past 16 years and he believes their recent form is ‘no fluke’. No longer a team scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table, Higgins is prepared for an experienced, ambitious Harps team in tonight’s sold out derby.
“They’ve won six on the spin and they’ve beat Shamrock Rovers and St Pat’s in their last two league games. The days of Finn Harps not being able to attract good players are gone.
They’ve got really good players and they’re able to attract them now. It’s a different Finn Harps team,” he continued. “They’ve got quality right throughout the pitch. They have vast experience right throughout their team. A lot of know-how. A lot of people who have been around the block. They have a league winning captain in Johnny Dunleavy, they have boys who have won trophies so the days of them scrapping it out are gone.
“I’m sure they won’t say it externally but internally I’m sure they have ambitions themselves. They have lads who can chip in from midfield or who are a threat from set-plays. They are a really good side, you only have to look at their current form. It’s not by fluke. You might win one game by fluke. You don’t win six in a row by fluke.”
Derry’s league form has also been impressive as the Brandywell club go in search of a FIFTH straight win to enhance their own European prospects. Indeed a win could potentially move City into third should Sligo lose at home to St Pat’s and Higgins believes the recent break has re-energised his squad.
“We’ve had a fortnight now without a game and I don’t think it’s done us any harm at all. The players are ready to go. Our league form has been very, very good and the aim is to try and continue that. Take away the cup defeat and we’re in really good form. Our home form is good and that’s coincided with supporters coming back into the ground and it’s no coincidence.”
So, is it a case of a exacting revenge for the cup defeat and the 2-1 league loss back in May?
”We treat every game and prepare for every game the exact same way. You get the three same points against your rivals as you do for any other team. Obviously beating your local rivals is brilliant for supporters but when you’re inside our dressing room, the focus remains the same in terms of how we prepare and this is no different.”
Higgins expects to have defender Cameron McJannett back in contention while Bastien Hery should be available following international duty.