Students learned valuable lessons from Brandywell horror show last April says UCD coach William O'Connor
UCD assistant coach William O’Connor hopes the Students can prove they’ve learned valuable lessons from their horror show on Foyleside last April to show they belong in the top division when they run out at Brandywell tonight.
Fuelled by memories of that 7-1 drubbing at the hands of a rampant Derry City, O’Connor expects a much tighter affair at the Lone Moor Road venue on this occasion.
It was a demoralising result, described by O’Connor as the club’s worst of the season, as everything seemed to click on the night for Ruaidhri Higgins’ charges.
However, Buncrana man O’Connor has been hugely impressed with how the players recovered from that forgettable night and hopes they can make the most of an opportunity to show how much they’ve improved since their last trip to the maiden city when the floodgates burst open.
“It’ll be a really tough game for us,” predicted the former Finn Harps coach. “Obviously we were up there earlier on in the season and it was our worst performance by a long shot. We needed to improve on a lot of things from that night but I think we’ve come a long way since that game.
“That result was a bit of a mix of things,” he explained. “It was probably the best Derry have played all year and the worst we played. We were missing a lot of players that night as well but Derry just clicked and they have top players who can hurt you. They took their chances on the night.
“It was our worst result of the season but you have to learn from it and recover and in fairness the boys recovered fairly quickly.
“A result like that can impact you for the rest of the season but the boys got stuck in for the next few games and they’ve been getting better throughout the season and getting more used to the standard. So hopefully on Friday night we’ll be able to show that we are a lot better than we were that last day and make more of a game of it.”
Derry have romped back to second place in the league after a late victory over Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Monday night. O’Connor was in the stands for that one and he’s been hugely impressed with Derry’s form of late.
However, he’s been delighted with UCD’s own form with the Students losing just twice in their last seven matches in all competitions, a run which included wins over Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps.
They’ve been buoyed by that significant win over their relegation rivals and can look forward to an FAI Cup quarter-final against Treaty United in a couple of weeks time.
“It’s a big game. Every game from now until the end of the season has to be a big game. Derry are a really top side with some of the best players in the league and they’re in good form.
“We’ve been improving gradually as the season has gone on. Over the last five games we’ve only lost one so we’re in good form ourselves. We have learned a lot from our last visit to Brandywell. It will be a tough ask but we need to keep it as tight as we can and keep the game alive going into the last hour or so to see if we can get something from it. We’re not putting pressure on ourselves. We’re enjoying it. We’re trying our best and we’ll see how things go.”
UCD’s fate could likely be decided on the penultimate game of the season when they travel to Ballybofey for a ‘play-off’ to decide who makes the relegation/promotion play-offs.
“There’s lots of football to be played from now until then but there’s no doubt UCD believe they should be playing at the top level again next season.
“We want to be going to the Brandywell, we want to be going to Tallaght and experience those venues and seeing how you adapt to playing against the better players. They’re looking forward to it.
“They want to show they’re at this level. It’s like any league, you want to play against the big teams and experience the games away from home. We want to give a good account of ourselves and hopefully a better account than the last time we went up there.”
O’Connor is hoping UCD can come up with a game-plan to stifle Derry’s formidable attacking talent.
“We were at the game on Monday night and watched them against Cork the previous week. With Michael Duffy coming back and (Ryan) Graydon, that gives them serious pace. With (Jamie) McGonigle playing through the middle it’s probably the three quickest players in the league.
“There are big, big threats but we’ve got to come up with a game-plan to try to stop those threats, especially the speed and pace up front but also the creativity they have with (Will)
Patching and (Patrick) McEleney, two of the most, if not the most, creative players in the league.
“They have some of the best players in the league and that’s exciting from our point of view to try and get a game plan together.”