Derry City’s push for Europe begins in earnest against Bohemians at the Brandywell as they return to action following an unscheduled two week break.
After being denied a place in the Uefa Cup this year because of the financial scandal which saw them relegated a couple of seasons ago, Derry are desperate to qualify this time around when they would be able to take their place.
But with only ten games remaining in the current campaign, it is going to be a tall order, not least with seven of those matches coming up in the next 25 days.
“There are 30 points to play for and we will be fighting for every one of those points,” said manager Declan Devine. “Between now and September 10 we have seven games, so it is going to be a huge test of the squad.”
The heavy workload is partly a result of their inactivity over the past couple of weeks — they have to squeeze in a rearranged fixture with St Patrick’s Athletic postponed from a fortnight ago because of their European commitments.
That break was extended as they were due to meet Monaghan United last week who have now withdrawn from senior football.
The lay-off has given central defender Stewart Greacen time to recover from the knee injury which has been troubling him for the bulk of the season.
It’s his second attempt to return to action after his last comeback proved short-lived last month.
But Rory Patterson’s enforced absence from the team is set to continue after he suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury which has sidelined him for the best part of two months.
Derry lie just three points behind tonight’s visitors Bohs, whom they have already beaten twice this season, and they also have a game in hand on the Dubliners.
Then they travel to Bray Wanderers on Monday before heading to Shelbourne next Friday as the heavy workload continues.
And Devine is unhappy that after a mid-season break Derry have been left with such a busy schedule because of a second spell with games.
“We didn’t have any control over the Monaghan situation and then St Pat’s deserved to have the league game rearranged because of Europe,” he said. “But the reality is we have had two long periods without a game this season.
“Now we have seven games coming up in the next three weeks and that’s going to be quite a challenge.”