Belfast Telegraph

Derry can upset odds and retain Cup, insists Devine

Thumbs up: Derry boss Declan Devine is feeling good ahead of the EA Sports Cup final
Thumbs up: Derry boss Declan Devine is feeling good ahead of the EA Sports Cup final

By Eoin Wilson

Declan Devine believes that his Derry City players have what it takes to upset Dundalk and retain the EA Sports League Cup at the Brandywell this evening.

The Candystripes have been the only team to give Dundalk a run for their money in 2019, and that fact is the one giving the fans, the players and the management the belief that something special can happen at the Brandywell tonight.

City's opponents need no introduction - league champions, FAI Cup holders and treble hopefuls, not to mention 26 domestic games unbeaten.

It is a huge ask for the Candystripes but, after the comeback at Oriel Park in May, the late equaliser at the Brandywell in July and the drama of the FAI Cup tie in August, there is little doubt that when it comes to Dundalk, Derry's players raise their game.

The teams will now meet for the fifth time this season, this time with a trophy, currently in Derry's possession, at stake.

"When we came in at the start of the year, our target was to get better. It was first and foremost to get a squad that was good enough to compete, and we have been able to do that over the season so far," Devine stated.

"I think it's just reward for the players for their buy-in to the club, that we have a final in the Brandywell against, let's be honest, the best team in Ireland by a country mile.

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"They're 26 games unbeaten; out of those 26 games the only points they have dropped have been against ourselves.

"It's a fantastic game for us, it's a game that we know we're going to have to be at our very, very best in, but it's a game in which we could show that we are more than a match for them on our day.

"We have got to prepare for it the best we can and embrace it because cup finals come and go very quickly but the lasting memory of them last you a lifetime.

"We have played Dundalk three times in the last number of months and we have scored six goals against them.

"No other team has done that, but we have to make sure this time that we do enough to win the match as opposed to just being a match for them."

Luck has gone against the Candystripes in the build-up to the final with some big injuries to key players. Devine admits the timing could not have been worse.

"Obviously Darren Cole is a huge loss to us, Greg Sloggett is really struggling so he's a doubt, and David Parkhouse came back from the internationals with a virus," he explained.

"We're very much down to the bare bones but we're okay with that because it is a cup final and something that people should look forward to and embrace.

"We have young players as well. I think that I have proven in cup finals before that I'm not afraid to throw the younger players in.

"Ronan Boyce has been sensational for our Under-19s and reserves and Jack Parke has been brilliant for our reserves, so those guys will come into the reckoning as well.

"We're well covered in midfield - Gerardo Bruna, Ciaron Harkin, Barry McNamee, Grant Gillespie and Jack Malone, so we're well covered there.

"Up front we have Michael McCrudden, Parkhouse and Adrian Delap so we are alright there too.

"We are light at the back with Darren's injury but, ultimately, we have a couple of young players who I believe in who have future careers here, and if it comes to the case that we have to play them in a cup final, then so be it, let's go."

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