Belfast Telegraph

Candystripes sweet on revenge after the humbling by Rovers

By Eoin Wilson

Derry City are out for revenge tonight when they face Shamrock Rovers at the Brandywell.

The Candystripes fell to their biggest ever League of Ireland defeat on March 9, losing 6-1 to Rovers at Tallaght, a night that Kenny Shiels and his players have been eager to forget about.

Yet since that loss, the transformation in form for Derry has been nothing short of remarkable, City currently on a run of eight games unbeaten, which includes seven victories and a draw at Dundalk.

In contrast, Rovers have gone downhill spectacularly, losing six of nine games since, the latest of which was a shock League Cup exit to First Division Longford Town at Tallaght in midweek.

City’s Rory Hale, who played in last month’s game, is still eager for closure on the Tallaght humbling however and he admits that the loss may have been a blessing in disguise.

“You could look at it in that way now because after that match we had a big meeting and we sorted all the issues out,” he said.

“Luckily it’s paid off. Since then Rovers’ own form has been a lot different than ours. It could have been a blessing in disguise — it’s still not nice to get hammered like that but it puts a wee reality check into you.

“You use it as motivation because you don’t ever want that feeling again. The feeling afterwards was ‘Why do I even play football after getting hammered like that?’ so you use it as motivation, and you can’t beat that winning feeling.”

Rory Hale and his brother Ronan have slotted in perfectly to the system at the Brandywell since joining in pre-season, and hopes are high that the younger Hale, with six goals already this season, can be passed fit for tonight’s game.

Ronan, only 19, has been a revelation for the Candystripes, those six goals including a hat-trick against Limerick in City’s first game back at the new Brandywell, and Rory admits that he has made a real difference to the team already.

“I did an interview before the season started and I said be patient with him because once the first goal goes in, that’s when they’ll start raining in,” he said.

“It took him four games to get off the mark, until Shamrock Rovers and he didn’t even start that game, he came off the bench, and then he scored six in four and he is scoring for Ireland U21s as well. I told the team to keep giving him confidence because once he gets his first, they will rain in.”

The Candystripes have won all five of their league games at home so far. Number six, if it comes, will be against Rovers tonight. Hale sees the connection.

“You would never, ever have thought after that Rovers game that we would go eight unbeaten, winning seven of those games, and then a point away at Dundalk,” he said.

“It just shows the character of the boys for such a young group. There’s brilliant character and there’s a will to win and we all want to do well.”

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