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We need to be at our best to stun Dundalk: Devine

 

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New start: Cork City’s Conor Davis, Sligo Rovers’ David Cawley, Derry City’s Conor Clifford, St. Pats’ Ian Birmingham, Dundalk’s Darragh Leahy, Shamrock Rovers’ Ronan Finn, Finn Harps’ David Webster, Shelbourne’s Ciaran Kilduff, Bohemians’ Daniel Grant and Waterford FC’s Robbie McCourt

New start: Cork City’s Conor Davis, Sligo Rovers’ David Cawley, Derry City’s Conor Clifford, St. Pats’ Ian Birmingham, Dundalk’s Darragh Leahy, Shamrock Rovers’ Ronan Finn, Finn Harps’ David Webster, Shelbourne’s Ciaran Kilduff, Bohemians’ Daniel Grant and Waterford FC’s Robbie McCourt

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

New start: Cork City’s Conor Davis, Sligo Rovers’ David Cawley, Derry City’s Conor Clifford, St. Pats’ Ian Birmingham, Dundalk’s Darragh Leahy, Shamrock Rovers’ Ronan Finn, Finn Harps’ David Webster, Shelbourne’s Ciaran Kilduff, Bohemians’ Daniel Grant and Waterford FC’s Robbie McCourt

A new-look Derry City team will face league champions Dundalk at Oriel Park tonight hoping to hit the ground running as the 2020 League of Ireland season kicks off.

Declan Devine has resurrected the Candystripes in less than a year, taking them from an eighth placed finish in 2018 to European qualification less than 12 months later, and he wants to build on that momentum this time around.

For Devine, the hard work is just beginning. Having succeeded Kenny Shiels as manager, Devine restored a local spine to the team and, as a result, the Brandywell was treated to some thrilling nights last year, not least of all the EA Sports League Cup final, which went all the way to penalties against Dundalk.

The City boss may have lost some key players since the end of last season, but he has strengthened the squad overall with nine new additions.

City's attack has been refreshed completely. After losing 19-goal David Parkhouse and Golden Boot winner Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, Devine has brought in ex-Waterford talisman Walter Figueira and Norwegian striker Tim Nilsen.

Reading striker Adam Liddle and Moussa Bakayoko give the City boss no shortage of goal options this season.

There has been an overhaul in midfield also. City lost Greg Sloggett to tonight's opponents, while captain Barry McNamee left to join Finn Harps. Darren McCauley's time at the club also proved short.

City fans now have a new captain to look to in Conor McCormack, while former St Patrick's Athletic man Conor Clifford has joined, as has Sheffield United loanee Stephen Mallon.

Hull loanee Danny Lupano and the experienced Colm Horgan have also come in to give Devine more defensive options.

The City boss now can't wait to get going.

"It's been five tough weeks for the players and also the staff, and the excitement has been building," he said.

"We have a completely new squad again, nine new players in this time and, to be fair, the group has really evolved over the last couple of weeks. They are forming friendships and togetherness that hopefully will stand us in good stead over the course of the season."

Derry City pushed Dundalk all the way on several occasions last season, but Devine pointed out that despite that fact, victory eluded them.

"Last year is gone," he insisted.

"Last year we did cause them problems but we didn't win a game against them; that's the reality, we did not beat them. We did not beat Shamrock Rovers, we did not beat Bohemians, and they are the teams that finished above us.

"Our goal this year is to get a bit closer to those teams. Bohemians finished three points ahead of us but we want to make sure we turn the screw this year and it's absolutely critical that we take points off the top three. If that comes starting on Friday night, then great, but we're under no illusions that it's going to be extremely difficult.

"They are the league champions for a reason, they have been the main force in Irish football for a long period of time, they were a penalty kick away from doing the treble last year, which thankfully they didn't do. They are the benchmark and we have to make sure that we have to be at our complete best to get anything out of the game."

Key arrivals in Airtricity League

BOHEMIANS: Stephen McGuinness, Anto Breslin, Kris Twardek.

CORK CITY: Liam Bossin, Joe Redmond, Charlie, Fleming, Rob Slevin.

DERRY CITY: Colm Horgan,Conor McCormack, Conor Clifford, Tim Nilsen, Walter Figueira.

DUNDALK: Darragh Leahy, Greg Sloggett, Cammy Smith, Will Patching.

FINN HARPS: David Webster, Shaun Kelly, Ryan Connolly, Leo Donnellan.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Liam Scales, Rhys Marshall.

SHELBOURNE: Jack Brady, Daniel O'Reilly, George, Poynton, Gary Deegan Karl Shepherd, Aaron Dobbs.

SLIGO ROVERS: Teemu Penninkangas, Darragh Noone, Will Seymore, Garry Buckley.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Conor Kearns, Shane Griffin, Robbie Benson, Jason McClelland.

WATERFORD: Tadhg Ryan, Robbie McCourt, Kevin O'Connor.

FIXTURES

Tonight (7.45pm): Cork City v Shelbourne (Turner's Cross); Dundalk v Derry City (Oriel Park); Finn Harps v Sligo Rovers (Ballybofey); St Patrick's Athletic v Waterford (Richmond Park)

Tomorrow (2.00pm): Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers (Dalymount Park)

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