Shiels rallies fans as Derry City strive for home comforts
It is a new adventure for Kenny Shiels and Derry City tonight as they kick off life in their new home of Maginn Park against Limerick.
The Candystripes will play in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, for the entirety of the 2017 season due to the long-overdue redevelopment of the Brandywell Stadium.
A reduced capacity at Maginn there may be, but it promises to be an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams, as Martin Russell and his Limerick players are sure to find out this evening.
Tonight's game sees first take on second in the Premier Division after impressive opening day victories against Bohemians and Sligo Rovers respectively, and Shiels has insisted that the fans could make all the difference in what he expects to be a hugely challenging game.
"We want the fans to get behind the team and give us as much energy as we can because the young lads are going to need it," he said.
"The players are so young that they look to the supporters to give them some inspiration, so it's really important to have a good, vocal support. They pulled us out a few times last year and they could make the difference again."
Although City were impressive in putting four past Bohemians at Dalymount Park, it was Limerick who earned rave reviews over the weekend, with Brazilian striker Rodrigo Tosi scoring a hat trick on his debut.
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The Super Blues' fantastic display was not a shock to Shiels, however, and he believes that Russell's team could go all the way this season.
"I have said all along that they are a really strong squad of players," he added. "They have players in their thirties - Freddy Hall, Robbie Williams, the Brazilian Tosi, and O'Flynn. Then there's Mulhall 29, Paul O'Connor 29 and Shane Duffy and Shane Tracey are both 28. What experience they have; Shaun Kelly is 28, Ian Turner is 28 in April, the amount of players they have in that range, they have loads of experience on us. We have to deal with this."
City have lost just once in their last 17 League of Ireland games, but Shiels is expecting their toughest challenge for some time this evening.
"Limerick have a superb panel of players," he insisted.
"Not only have they invested for Europe, they have invested for the title. I make no bones about that, they are a team that could win the title quite easily. They are a team used to winning. We have to have faith; losing Ben (Doherty) and Rory (Patterson) hasn't helped us. It puts us in a difficult situation but we'll just do our best."
Defender Aaron Barry has played just once in pre-season having missed the last six months through injury, while loanee Mikhail Kennedy missed the victory at Dalymount Park due to a slight hamstring strain. Nathan Boyle, who came off the bench to score twice against Bohemians, is sure to come into contention in Patterson's absence.
With a trip to Shamrock Rovers up next weekend, Shiels will be hoping that his modest squad of players comes through this evening's encounter unscathed.