Derry City fans could be well bronzed by the time they see the Candystripes in action against champions Dundalk on July 5th.
Declan Devine’s side host Finn Harps this evening in the big north-west derby – but that could be the last league game at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium until the summer fixture against the Lilywhites.
And that’s not something that Devine is too pleased about. After a fixture-heavy past three months with a game nearly every four days, an enforced famine of action at home appears to be on the cards.
A number of forthcoming games involving City are set to be called off due to international call-ups.
And later in the summer, the involvement of Irish clubs in the Europa League will inevitable lead to more disruption.
Devine says it “defies logic” what is happening.
With games at home to Waterford and UCD likely to be called off, City could have away games against Shamrock Rovers (June 8th), Cork City (June 28th) and Bohemians (July 1st) before they are back at the Brandywell for league action.
All the more reason then to get three points in the bag tonight as they continue their quest to keep the pressure on the side immediately above them in the table, Bohemians.
With the title race increasingly looking like a Dundalk-Shamrock Rovers battle, Devine’s target is a European place.
Despite collecting City just three points from their last five games, Devine insists his side has “not lost its spark” but the natives will be expecting success over their near neighbours, who are joint bottom.
“We are playing football as good as anyone in the league in my opinion,” he maintained after Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw away to St. Patrick’s Athletic.
This evening’s game will be the 68th competitive meeting between the two sides -
and the Donegal club has won just seven of them.
When the sides met earlier in the season, Derry triumphed 3-2 with David Parkhouse snatching two late goals in a feisty encounter against ten man Harps at Finn Park.
Harps have never won a league game at the Brandywell, but Horgan’s charges have lost just once in their last five games – against Shamrock Rovers.
And having climbed above UCD on goal difference, the Ballybofey-based side may well feel this is a good time to face City.
Horgan is well pleased with the commitment from his players, but he is not underestimating the task in Derry.
“I can’t fault my players for effort, but we need to cut out the mistakes. We will need everything to go our way if we are to get anything out of the game,” he said.
Former Derry player Mark Timlin is still sidelined through injury for Harps while Rafaele Cretaro is battling to overcome a virus.
Meanwhile, the sides will be in action again on Monday at the same venue in the quarter-finals of the EA Sports League Cup.
City are the holders and will be expected to advance, with Harps likely to field a considerably weakened team. Kick-off is 7.45 pm.
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