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Candystripes are sweet on a return to Europe

By Eoin Wilson

Derry City's European hopes for next season hang in the balance ahead of tonight's game against St Patrick's Athletic at the Brandywell.

Last week's Europa League second leg victory away to Dinamo Minsk, whilst a welcome boost, was only a temporary reprieve from woeful domestic form, which has seen the Candystripes lose nine of 13 league games since the start of May.

Monday night's 5-0 thumping at the hands of champions Cork City at Turner's Cross was the latest in a growing line of big defeats for Derry this season, taking them to within two goals of their worst ever defensive run as a League of Ireland team.

Derry meet St Patrick's Athletic at the Brandywell tonight with both sides needing a win to keep up the chase with the European pack.

A win for Liam Buckley's men would see them leapfrog Derry into fifth place, but boss Kenny Shiels is remaining optimistic, and having signed five new players in recent weeks, he is expecting an upturn in fortunes.

"We are trying to aim for Europe on two fronts, the league and the FAI Cup also, people forget about that. We are trying to get to Europe if we can, we are working hard at that," he said.

"It is self-explanatory but we have to be creative and try to take each game as it comes. I don't want to get too cliched but the next game is St Pat's and that is the next game we need to win.

"It is important every home game that we have support behind us.

"They have a great atmosphere down in Cork and we want to try and get somewhere near that in the near future."

Shiels has had issues with match officials of late, while he was upset over the scheduling of Monday's game at Cork, so soon after returning home from last Thursday's game in Belarus.

"It is not the matter of making excuses, the game is played at such a fast pace now," Shiels said.

"Former players would say 'when we were young' and I would say the same but it's not like what the game used to be, the game used to be pedestrian," he added. "If you go back to the days of Liam Coyle, Felix Healy and Jimbo Crossan, great players from the city, it was snail's pace compared to today.

"Now football is quick, the sport science and all the contributing factors that have made players quicker and stronger," he said.

"This means you can't send a lame team out against the likes of Cork."

Derry City will play Institute in the Billy Kee Memorial Cup on Saturday, August 28 at the Brandywell with a 2pm kick-off.

• Dundalk will travel to Cyprus for the second leg of their Europa League qualifier with their destiny in their own hands following last night's scoreless draw with AEK Larnaca at Oriel Park.

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