One loss, one win and one draw will probably be considered by the powers that be to be a satisfactory start to life for Shelbourne following the completion of the third round of games in the Premier Division on Monday night.
That said, most people would have expected them to account for fellow promotion side UCD last Monday night but in fact they failed to score and only came away with a single point.
The new look Shels side, under new manager Damian Duff, was always going to take some time to adjust to the new surroundings in the top tier, but nonetheless their confidence levels would have been quite high after a deserved 2-0 win away to Drogheda on the previous Friday night.
The benefits of that win did not translate into a dominant performance against the Students however, and overall Duff will have been disappointed his side did not score and get all three points.
Overall, the game at Belfield was scrappy and of poor quality, not helped by a pocked surface which had hosted a rugby match between this game and the Friday night match against Finn Harps.
Duff made three changes to the team which had beaten Drogheda, Brian McManus, Jordan McEniff and Sean Boyd all starting but over the course of the 90 minutes they created very few chances and indeed were thankful to keeper Lewis Webb who prevented college striker Colm Whelan from scoring the winner deep into the 8 minutes of extra time at the end of the match.
Speaking to the club’s website during the week, Duff said that his players can’t wait for Friday night.
“It’s in the players mindset to relish these occasions. Derry are obviously favourites with some for the league but I’ve been very proud of the performances.
“Derry have a lot of individual quality and a team with a lot of match winners and I’d say tomorrow’s team will feature quite a lot of those players but nothing will phase us as we look to make Tolka a fortress,” he added.
“We’re convinced when we go into each game that we will win it and that same belief remains going into every week.’’
‘’It’s the best bit of the week for the players, for the staff and I’m sure for Shelbourne fans it is as well. Everyone is absolutely buzzing for tomorrow. We want to make something special,” he added.
In team news, Shane Griffin, Sean McSweeney and JJ Lunney are all struggling to be fit for Friday night.
Derry City are perceived by many to be the favourites to challenge Shamrock Rovers for the league title this year and their early season form certainly supports that perception as they are unbeaten after the first three rounds of the league and also managed to beat Rovers 2-1 in one of those three games.
They did not build on the dramatic victory over the Hoops as they would have wished however, being held to a 0-0 draw by Sligo Rovers in the Brandywell on Monday night.
Monday night’s match was a fairly tame affair, with both sides creating a few goalscoring chances but neither side doing enough to claim the three points.
The Candystripes were very sharp at the start of the game, and Brandon Kavanagh and Jamie McGonigle both had good early chances but were unable to beat in form Sligo keeper Ed McGinty.
They also had two chances at the end of the game, both fell to Eoin Toal, but he put one chance wide and scuffed his final effort into the arms of McGinty.
The Candystripes have been dealt a major injury blow this week with the confirmation that Ciaron Harkin suffered an ACL rupture during the win over Shamrock Rovers on Friday night.
Ruaidhri Higgins will now be forced to shuffle his pack just two games into the season to cover for the loss of a player who has been pretty much an ever-present during his time at the club.
The Derry City boss was understandably more concerned about his midfielder- insisting that ‘Jackie’ is exactly the type of player who can bounce back from the injury.
“We’re all gutted for him but we know the type of person he is and we know his character. I have no doubt that he will come back from this a stronger person.”
“We need to see the values that he brings to the team remain within it. He may not be able to have the impact on the pitch that he would have wanted, but he is an integral part of our dressing room and will remain so throughout the season.”
“Everyone at the club holds Jackie in very high regard. He will get the best of help from our excellent medical team throughout his recovery.
“We will assist him in every way possible to get him back doing what he does best as soon as possible.”
Referee: Ray Matthews
The last two meetings between these two sides were back in August and October 2020, with the first fixture at Tolka Park ending a 1-1 draw, while Derry City had a 2-0 win two months later at the Brandywell, Joe Thompson and Walter Figueira getting the goals.
Glaswegian Thompson is still a key member of Ruaidhri Higgins’s squad while Figueria is now plying his trade with Kingstonian in the Isthmian League in England.
Shelbourne 11/5; Draw 11/5; Derry City11/10
Shelbourne 1-3 Derry City
Injured: Shane Griffin, Sean McSweeney, JJ Lunney.
Injured: Ciaron Harkin
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