Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Derry City eye Euro place

Stephen Kenny is calling on his Derry city players to put in a huge effort over the next week.

His side faces three matches over the course of the next five days, although the last of them — Tuesday's friendly at home to Celtic — is likely to see him field a very young team.

The last thing the Derry boss needed was for Tuesday's FAI Cup replay against Cork going the distance, but all that was forgotten as Mark Farren slotted home the winning penalty.

That has set up a semi-final against Galway United and the very realistic prospect of a final meeting with either St Patrick's Athletic or Bohemians.

That, though, can be put on the back burner while Derry concentrate on making sure of their European place for next season via the league.

“It’s a great time to be a player with all these big games,” said Kenny,

“We’re putting together a good run of form just at the right time.”

The week could hardly have gone better for Derry with their closest rivals for third place, Drogheda United, failing to beat bottom side Cobh on Tuesday.

That goalless draw left the reigning league champions trailing Derry by three points and City also have a game in hand, albeit against second place Pat's.

This evening Derry take on Sligo Rovers in the Brandywell, an awkward fixture coming hard on the heels of Tuesday's gruelling win and last weekend's stunning FAI League Cup final win over Wexford Youths.

Kenny will have half an eye on Monday's Setanta Sports Cup meeting with Linfield and with City safely through to the knock

out stages of that competition for the first time, he may be tempted to rest several of his key players.

But Derry have yet to beat the Blues in this competition in three years of trying and victory there would knock the Belfast side out of the competition.

The increasingly influential Niall McGinn did start Tuesday's game despite limping out of the cup final with a dead leg.

Meanwhile Derry's success on the field so far this season is keeping them on an even financial keel, unlike Donegal neighbours Finn Harps who are going through something of a crisis.

Players and staff have agreed to have their wages slashed in half in a bid to stem the tide.

Crowd numbers have fallen well short of the projected average gate of 1,600 per game which has led to the current situation.

It's a frustrating situation for manager Paul Hegarty, the former Derry midfielder.

After a ropey start to their first season back in the Premier Division, he has steered them to ninth place in the table and they are well clear of the relegation danger zone.

Financial problems at Cork led to them being docked ten points in the league this season while Galway also struggle to survive.