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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul O'Hehir

Danny Lafferty confident Derry City can become long-term title rivals to Shamrock Rovers

Danny Lafferty has insider knowledge of what makes Shamrock Rovers tick and is well placed to assess the lengths Derry City must go to match them.

The Premier Division’s top two meet in a fascinating clash in Tallaght tonight, with Lafferty returning to the club where he won a league title and FAI Cup.

But Derry travel having surrendered top spot to the Hoops on Monday night, when they were held at home by St Pat’s while Rovers were picking Sligo Rovers apart.

They have seen a six-point lead over Rovers morph into a one point deficit, although key figures at the club claim that doesn’t matter at this stage of the season.

Still, it is a sign that the pressure is on despite playing eye-catching football - without some injured stars - and the fact they will strengthen again in the summer.

Rovers are Irish football’s dominant force and Stephen Bradley said he turned down Lincoln City last week to finish the job he started.

But six years into the role, it wasn’t all bells and whistles for Bradley who had to build and rebuild squads in order to be successful.

The trophy run began with the 2019 FAI Cup, which Lafferty was part of before clinching the title the following year and leaving for his hometown club.

Derry’s Danny Lafferty celebrates (©INPHO/Lorcan Doherty)

Bradley had to be patient in transforming Shamrock Rovers’ fortunes, and so too does Candtystripes counterpart Ruaidhri Higgins who is at pains to play down expectations.

That’s largely due to the fact that club owner Philip O’Doherty became a billionaire last year when he sold his private business.

Wing-back Lafferty, 32, believes the signs suggest that up and coming Derry City are going about it the right way.

And their 2-1 win at home to Shamrock Rovers back in February just enhances that growing sense of purpose.

“It's obvious to see what has been going on here over this season and since Ruaidhri came in last (April),” he said ahead of tonight’s showdown.

“Things have continually been getting better and improving. The performances are showing that and so is our start to the season.

“Shamrock Rovers have set the benchmark and teams have had to strengthen to keep up with them.

“We’ve managed to do that so far this season and I'm sure we’ll have a gameplan going there tonight to ask a lot of questions and see where it takes us.”

Danny Lafferty in his Shamrock Rovers days (©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)

Ex-Burnley and Sheffield United man Lafferty left Rovers after the 2020 season but understands the demands that Bradley puts on his players to be successful.

“Their dominance over the last 12 months or so has been a couple of years in the making, continually adding strength to their squad,” he said.

“They have a real identity about the club. They have some top individual players and they are relentless in how they go about things.

“You've seen recently that they keep picking up wins and ticking them off as they go. We are under no illusions that it will be a tough task for us.

“But we're going there with loads of belief. We know it's a tough place to go but we've got loads of individual and collective quality in our group to get three points.”

Lafferty feels Derry must learn from Shamrock Rovers by also becoming a relentless team that swats others aside.

But he points to Monday’s scoreless draw at home to St Pat’s and Friday’s 1-1 draw with Bohs at the Brandywell as reasons why the Candystripes are not there yet.

“We're not sitting back and patting ourselves on the back to say we've done well compared to where we are this year from last year, it's nothing like that,” he said.

“We want to be relentless in how we perform and we want to kick on again.

“If we were sitting here talking about a win last Monday, then all of these questions in terms of how far we have come would be out the window.

“We would just keep rolling the way Rovers are - lining teams up and knocking them down. We have to get even better as the season goes on.”

But while third-placed St Pat’s dug in for a point at the Brandywell, Lafferty insists Derry City have no intention of doing the same in Tallaght.

It’s not in their nature and he added: “We've a good record in Dublin this year and we're going there to win the game, no doubt about it. We know we can match them.”

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