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Shiels backing young guns to fire Derry back to form

 

By Eoin Wilson

Kenny Shiels believes that Finn Harps' experienced players could give them the edge in tonight's north west derby at Maginn Park (7.45pm). The Candystripes are hoping to get back to winning ways after consecutive defeats to Bray Wanderers and Cork City, while Harps are also hoping to avoid a third successive loss.

Derry, though, are understrength with Rory Patterson (ankle), Barry McNamee (hamstring) and Conor McDermott (hand) all ruled out, leaving the squad with an average age of 22.

The game has numerous sub-plots with several former Derry players in the Harps line-up, including Paddy McCourt, who is set to play against his old team for the first time since leaving the club in 2008.

The three points are what matters most, however, and Shiels is expecting a much-improved performance from his players following their slump at Turner's Cross last weekend.

"We have got to try and win and we'll be working hard to try and do that," he said. "Every game is about winning. I was disappointed in how we played last week. I went over the game with the players and there was a certain amount of fear in how we performed.

"I wasn't expecting that and I didn't like that. Players have to step up now, and they know that. That's the challenge."

Last season's derby games were memorable with Harps taking four points off their great rivals, and Shiels is expecting another classic encounter.

"People say that the derby is a leveller and you get that because of the commitment," he said. "They have put tremendous emphasis on this game to try and win it, I'm told. That's good because that's professional, but they need to be doing it every game, the same as us.

"It is maximum commitment and maximum effort in every game. It is a game that we need to win."

Meanwhile, Derry are to host their Europa League games at Oriel Park this season, after Sligo Rovers priced the club out of using the Showgrounds.

This season will see Derry return to European action for the first time since 2013, but with the Brandywell undergoing redevelopment and Maginn Park falling short of Uefa standards, Derry have had to nominate an alternative ground ahead of the first qualifying round on June 29.

While the Showgrounds at Sligo Rovers was the club's preferred option, the financial demands were excessive and made such a move unrealistic.

In contrast, it is understood that both Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have offered Oriel Park and Tallaght free of charge to the Candystripes.

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