Shiels hoping Derry will shake off the rust
DERRY City resume their race for Europa League qualification this evening after almost a month on the sidelines.
Kenny Shiels and his players head to relegation-threatened Galway United hoping to get back on track after a run of four successive wins was brought to a devastating halt by successive 4-0 defeats to champions Dundalk in the FAI Cup and the league.
In the 26 days since, Derry have been without a competitive fixture, having to make do with friendly games against Bohemians, Institute and Finn Harps, and Shiels admits he does not know what to expect from his players.
“It’s been very difficult for everybody,” he said. “You could call it a month. Time will tell and we’ll know how rusty we’ve gotten.
“We’re going into the unknown a wee bit against a team who have still been in the FAI Cup and playing every week, while we haven’t. It’s not an excuse but it’s a situation where we will need to be extra intelligent.”
In the interim, Derry have fallen behind Shamrock Rovers in the race for Europa League qualification, with one point now the difference between the teams, although the Candystripes do have one game in hand. They can return to third place with victory tonight though, giving them the edge once again with just five league games left to play.
“With Rovers not playing this weekend, it means that if we draw we’re back in third and that’s what we want,” Shiels continued. “We want to go there and get something. This game will help us enormously if we get something from it because it will bring us back to planet football again, where we are looking to get our competitive fitness back.
“I feel and the players feel that we don’t know how good we can be or how poor we can be.”
Three points is also a necessity for Galway, however, and having lost at Eamonn Deacy Park already this season in the League Cup, Shiels knows his players will be seriously tested this evening.
“They are playing for their lives,” he acknowledged. “We have tough games because we’re playing the current bottom five in our last five games. They are often harder fixtures because when it comes to sorting out time in the season then it becomes more important to teams still in that zone.”
There will be late fitness tests for defenders Conor McDermott (hip) and Dean Jarvis (leg) before tonight’s game.
Back at it: Kenny Shiels’ Derry return to competitive action