Shelbourne's 'Burt Kante' Mark Coyle hoping to upset his neighbours Derry City in race for Europe

​DAMIEN Duff described Mark Coyle as 'an important part of the DNA of Shelbourne' and the man dubbed 'the Burt Kante' from his time at Finn Harps believes he's flourishing under the guidance of the former Chelsea and Ireland legend.
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​Duff served a one-match touchline ban during Shels' 1-0 win over Dundalk last week which kept alive their European ambitions but will be back in the dugout at Brandywell when the Drumcondra outfit arrive on Foyleside for a crunch league clash for both teams.

Shelbourne have exceeded many pundits' expectations this year as they remain hot on the heels of second placed Derry and third placed St Pat's but that progress comes as no surprise to Coyle.

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The Donegal man - who believes his boss has helped raise the profile of the League of Ireland since his arrival - says it's easy to see why Duff was such a success at the top level of the game in England for such a long time.

Derry City‘s Adam O’Reilly and Ronan Boyce tackle Shelburne’s Mark Coyle. DER2321GS - Derry City‘s Adam O’Reilly and Ronan Boyce tackle Shelburne’s Mark Coyle. DER2321GS -
Derry City‘s Adam O’Reilly and Ronan Boyce tackle Shelburne’s Mark Coyle. DER2321GS -

Coyle believes his own game has improved significantly since his close season move from Finn Harps in 2021 under Duff’s watch.

"Sometimes I don't understand why some people are so hateful or criticise him online or whatever," said Coyle.

"For me, he's so good for the league. A big personality like him and a high profile personality, of course it's great for the league and builds the profile of the league.

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"What he's doing with us as well, he's a good calibre of coach and manager and knows what he's at. He's played at the top level so it's been great for everyone I think."

Shelbourne's Mark Coyle gets away from Jordan McEneff and Ben Doherty at Tolka Park.Shelbourne's Mark Coyle gets away from Jordan McEneff and Ben Doherty at Tolka Park.
Shelbourne's Mark Coyle gets away from Jordan McEneff and Ben Doherty at Tolka Park.

Coyle, who graduated from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology with an honours degree in medical science, is relishing full-time football and the demands from Shels’ coaching staff.

Duff hit the headlines recently when claiming 'guys that don't like the demands, they won't be here'. However, Coyle insists his manager's comments were taken out of context.

"He was misquoted in that. He only puts demands on us if he knows we can do better. You just have to learn how to deal with it. Sometimes it can be critical but most often it's praise and it's just wanting you to improve as a player and as a person.

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"Yes, the demands are high but in any environment that is high performance you want that. If you want to go to the next level you need that.

"It's been a massive move for me. The amount I've learned down here from the gaffer, Joey (O'Brien) and all the coaching staff really. Every day the demands he puts on us and the intensity of training, you are only going to improve, especially if you want to improve.

"For me it's down to having the right mindset of wanting to improve, accepting the criticism when it comes but also reacting the right way,

"I would say I've developed massively as a player. I feel much more confident going on to the pitch. I have better ideas, even technically I'd say I improved. I knew I could and it was probably one of the biggest reasons, I wanted to be as good as I can be so I knew this sort of place could help me do that.

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"The amount I've learned down here and it comes down to me training every day in that intensity and you have to step up. You either sink or swim and thankfully so far I've been able to do that and improve and hopefully I'll improve even more because I know where the gaffer wants to go.

"I'm not taking anything for granted and I haven’t done an awful lot in terms of winning anything so there's a lot of room to improve and for me that's the biggest thing."

Since Hull City's Turkish owner, Acun IIicali completed his takeover at Shelbourne in the summer there has been a lot of talk about the Dublin club increasing its budget and challenging for honours next year.

Challenging for Europe will certainly fast-track their progress and Coyle revealed it has always been their target this season.

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"I would say we're probably just in and around where we were expecting to because you have to have that belief in the dressing room to achieve that.

"If you don't have that belief you're never going to do it. So you sort of have to set your expectations high in terms of what you can do because if you don't you'll never get there.

"I'd say we've also improved massively throughout the year and if you look at the amount of injuries we've had this season and how small our squad can be at times, I think we have done reasonably well.

"Really for me it comes down to the gaffer, the coaching staff and their mindset. You have boys who have played at the top level who know what winnings about. They know what it takes.

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"I can see how they made it across the water for so long and it comes down to mentality. Their mentality is elite and it's down to us to try and catch up with him in a way.

"Shels certainly have no inferiority complex when it comes to playing the league's top teams and have lost just once in their last 12 league matches going into next week's trip to Derry.

"We have massive respect for the so-called big teams in the league and what they've done, the likes of Derry and Rovers and Pats who have won stuff, but you can't respect them too much in terms of letting them do what they want to do otherwise you'll not get any kind of result.

"It comes from the gaffer but we have to go out onto the pitch and do it as well."

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Shelbourne have yet to beat Derry this season, losing once and drawing the other two fixtures which were tightly contested affairs. Coyle is relishing testing himself again against the likes of Will Patching and Patrick McEleney and expects a tough encounter.

"The Brandywell is a very tough place to go and Derry is full of quality so it's never an easy game ever.

"They got off to a flyer and the team is full of quality and I'd say that's another aspect of why you have to raise your game against them because you're playing against top players like Fats, Will Patching who comes to mind, Mickey Duffy - they are top players in our league so you have to raise your game to match them or play at their level.

"I definitely thought Derry would push Rovers tight and I think they did until that game at Brandywell when they were 1-0 up before the penalty. I think that just took the wind from their sails a bit.

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"If they won that it's a whole different ball game for them. That's the way the season goes. They're obviously improving too. They're finishing higher and pushing in the right way. They won the FAI Cup last year so for me they're a top team going in the right direction.”