EVER since he took over as manager of the Candystripes, Declan Devine has had a hard time of it.
As if the weight of expectation when taking hold of the reins of the Brandywell club after someone like Stephen Kenny wasn’t enough pressure in itself, the fact that the club has been ravaged by injuries compounds matters.
With that in mind, ahead of the Setanta Cup final at the Oval on Saturday May 12, Declan Devine will be keen to rally his troops and take the trophy home after the club’s dismal league form of late.
But it might prove to be a difficult task. The Derry manager received the news that his skipper, Kevin Deery, would be ruled out for three months after he suffered the horrific injury of a dislocated knee cap. You have to feel for Deery, he barely got a chance after returning from his injury earlier in the season.
The Creggan man yet again joins a growing number on the sidelines, which includes senior centre back Stewart Greacen, striker Mark Farren, while others such as senior Northern Ireland international Rory Patterson, and young stars Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Madden are all playing with injuries.
Derry have now lost four games in the league and are well and truly chasing the pack. With 10 games played, they’ve lost to Drogheda and Shelbourne away.
Devine’s men suffered defeat to second-from-bottom Dundalk at home and were completely outclassed at the Brandywell by St. Pat’s last Friday. With such a thin squad, it seems that the injuries are finally catching up with Derry in terms of form.
And Crusaders will not be as easy an opponent as some might expect. The Belfast side have been strong in recent seasons, finishing runners up in the Irish League last season before dropping to fifth this season. However, they also won the Irish League Cup, beating a strong Coleraine team in the final.
They have among their ranks senior Northern Ireland internationals Colin Coates, Jordan Owens and Stuart Dallas, while goalkeeper Sean O’Neill was a prominent under-age international.
In the semi-final, Stephen Baxter’s team performed excellently against Sligo Rovers, both home and away, eclipsing the Airtricity League leaders to get to the final.
It’s a massive game for Declan Devine and his team. To win silverware early in the season would be an enormous boost to morale. However, should they lose, the league table will appear like a serious mountain to climb.