DERRY CITY midfielder Greg Sloggett felt the Candy Stripes lacked their usual never-say-die character as Friday night’s league clash with Shamrock Rovers started to slip from their grasp.
Even Declan Devine admitted his team had uncharacteristically ‘given up the ghost’ after having the ‘stuffing knocked out of them’ when Rovers striker, Aaron Greene made them pay four minutes after David Parkhouse missed from the penalty spot as the Hoops clinically clinched victory.
And now, Devine’s team must somehow rediscover that dogged mentality which has served them so well this season if they’re to find a way past FAI Cup holders, Dundalk when the Lilywhites roll into town on Friday night for the pick of the second round ties.
With leading goalscorer, Parkhouse suspended for the fixture, it really is tough task for Devine’s troops but the City boss will have full faith in his squad to do the business and end Dundalk’s recent domination in the blue riband competition.
They’ve already shown they can match the best in the league and have fought back in fiercely competitve clashes to earn draws against both Dundalk (twice) and Shamrock Rovers this year.
Devine has said he doesn’t believe in omens but Friday marks the 90th anniversary of the Lone Moor Road club’s formation. This season coincides with the 30th anniversary of the phenomenal League of Ireland ‘treble’ when Derry City completed that unprecedented, trophy laden 1988/89 season with victory in the FAI Cup Final replay over Cork City at Dalymount Park.
That domestic ‘treble’ began with a 4-0 thumping of Dundalk at Oriel Park in front of 8,000 people - a Dundalk team which, incidentally had completed the ‘double, double’ just the year before.
Dundalk were gunning for a clean sweep of domestic trophies this year having clinched their place in the EA Sports Cup Final with a demolition job on Bohemians on Monday night.
And that would be difficult to take for most Derry City fans and particularly those treble winners who have watched Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk and indeed, the Dubliner’s Derry City, fall short in their respective bids to emulate that unique success story over the past 30 years.
It’s funny that the football gods have ensured that it’s Derry City who may stand in the way of Dundalk potentially emulating those 1989 heroics as they host them at Brandywell next month in that EA Sports Cup Final and will attempt to knock them out of the FAI Cup on Friday!
Call me a hopeless romantic but the last time the Candy Stripes won the FAI Cup was back in 2012 when no other than the club’s current manager, Declan Devine led them to glory over St Patrick’s Athletic at the Aviva Stadium - surely a good omen!
His captain that day was his current assistant boss, Kevin Deery. Barry McNamee had won a winners’ medal in his first season in senior football and he now skippers the club.
In the end all those omens, milestones and anniversaries will count for nothing should Derry fail to produce their best performance of the season and dispatch of Dundalk who look to have the bit between their teeth.
Hopefully we get to see the biggest attendance of the season at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Friday for what should be a cracker of a game.
Devine has demanded nothing short of ‘elite’ performances from now until the end of the season and they will need to be in top form against the Co. Louth outfit. The Brandywell Faithful will need to rally around once more, be in their finest voice and act as the team’s ‘12th man’ to see them over the line.
Ominously Patrick McEleney found his scoring touch last Friday night with a brace in the 5-0 romp over Finn Harps at Oriel Park and the City defence will need to find a way to thwart the league’s leading marksman, Pat Hoban who has so far netted four times past Derry in their previous three league meetings this season.
With former Brandywell favourite, Danny Lafferty potentially set to join Dundalk, or as ‘Journal’ columnist and ex-City keeper, Eddie Mahon has christened them, ‘Derrydalk’ given the significant number of recruits from the city and ex-candy stripes, it really would leave a bad taste should they end the Foylesiders’ interest in the competition this year.
It’s going to need a huge effort from Devine’s troops but they are more than capable. Derry certainly haven’t had the luck of the draw but as Sloggett put it, “In order to win the cup you’ve got to beat the best and Dundalk are the best team in the league as we all know”.
And talking about omens, Derry haven’t managed to beat Dundalk this year, losing once and drawing twice while the Lilywhites are unbeaten in their last 11 visits to Brandywell.
Derry last defeated Dundalk at the venue back in October 2012 - almost SEVEN years ago but they did win 3-1 at Maginn Park in March 2017! The Lilywhites are also responsible for ending City’s cup run in 2016 and 2017. However, that run, like all the rest, has to end at some point. Hopefully on Friday night!