Shamrock Rovers will benefit from a strong Derry City rivalry: says Ruaidhri Higgins
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The Candystripes have kept pace with the back-to-back league champions in the title race with four consecutive victories closing the gap at the top to a single point with six games to go. Rovers ‘have one hand on the trophy’ according to Higgins given their two games in hand and squad depth but the City boss is delighted to have closed the gap from last season.
He believes the League of Ireland top flight will become a lot more competitive in the future and reckons Rovers will benefit from the increased domestic rivalry.
“The league needs more teams scrapping it out at the top and that’s happening now. It will make them better as well,” he said. “It’s like Celtic and Rangers, they haven’t really had anybody else in Scotland for years and it’s probably not been beneficial to them in Europe because they’re not getting tested.
“Our league is changing. There are a lot of clubs now capable of beating each other. Over the next few years we’ll see a really exciting league.”
Rovers’ success in Europe could impact their domestic hopes given their hectic schedule but Higgins believes the prospect of that Aviva showpiece next month will act as a driving force when the league's top two meet in the FAI Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
They suffered a heavy 3-0 defeat to Gent in Belgium on Thursday night but Higgins doesn't expect their exertions on the continent to impact preparations for their visit to Brandywell on Sunday.
“There’s no doubt they’re well equipped to balance the two competitions. They came up here after playing in Macedonia and drew 0-0. I went to the Finn Harps game. Boys like Jack Byrne and Rory Gaffney didn’t play against Djurgarden and then played against Finn Harps so it will be interesting but they will be coming up here expecting to win.
“European football is fantastic and it’s great for Irish football that clubs are getting into group stages more regularly now but nothing beats cup finals. I’m sure they’ll do everything in their power to get themselves there. I don’t see it being a huge advantage but hopefully I’m wrong.”