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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paul O'Hehir

Derry City standing firm on Friday date for showdown with league leaders Shamrock Rovers

Derry City are making no apologies for pressing ahead with Friday’s big home clash with Shamrock Rovers. And that’s because they insist the league-leading Hoops would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.

Rovers arrived in Macedonia on Sunday ahead of Tuesday’s second-leg of their Europa League third round clash with Shkupi.

They lead 3-1 from the first-leg and were planning on flying into Belfast on their return, rather than Dublin, to prepare for Friday’s league game.

Read more: Linfield boss David Healy orders players to 'up the ante' ahead of European date with Zurich

The Hoops had asked if the game could be called off but Derry dug their heels in and refused. They also claimed it could not be switched to later in the weekend as the council-owned Brandywell stadium wasn’t available on Saturday or Sunday.

However, there is a clause in the Participation Agreement that Rovers could yet look to exploit if they progress in Macedonia tomorrow.

Teams can seek a postponement of league matches if they play back-to-back away games in Europe, but the final decision rests with the league director Mark Scanlon.

If Rovers go through, they will be away to either Qarabag of Azerbaijan or Hungary’s Ferencvaros in next week’s Europa League playoff round first-leg.

Crash out, and they will host Ballkani of Kosovo or Faroe Islands outfit Kí Klasksvík at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday week.

But the fact that Rovers have explored flying into Belfast suggests they will press ahead with Friday’s game regardless having already built up a backlog of games.

Candystripes boss Ruaidhri Higgins is ready to play on Friday as Derry City look to close within five points of the Hoops with a win.

Higgins said: “We were in Riga and got back on a Friday evening and played Finn Harps on a Sunday evening.

“Rovers had a Cup game last Friday (after the Ludogorets home clash), didn't they? And they were ok to play that. We've done it, so that's the way we look at it.

“If the roles were reversed, would they? We've to look after Derry City Football Club and that's where we’re at. We want our teams to do well in Europe, of course we do, because it helps everybody but we've a job to do and so we're looking forward to the game.

“We just want to win the game. It’s an opportunity in front of our own supporters. Hopefully it’s a sellout and they get right behind us. It’s a big game.”

But Higgins would like the FAI to have a clear policy on league games in and around European matches.

“I don't know how easy it is to organise that but I don't think you can decide who you want a game on against and who you want a game off against,” he said.

Sadou Diallo in action against Dundalk (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

“You can't say it's ok to play an FAI Cup game but it's not ok to play a league game. We're just looking forward to the game and hopefully we can get three points.

“We respect them, they are an absolutely brilliant team. We want our teams to go through in Europe but we obviously want to beat them as well next week.”

Meanwhile, Higgings has hailed the role played so far by new signing Sadou Diallo. Born in Guinea but raised in Rotherham, Diallo is a former Manchester City youth and then played for Wolves, Accrington Stanley and Forest Green.

He stood out in Derry’s 1-1 draw away to Dundalk on Friday and Higgins said of the holding midfielder: “He’s an outstanding footballer.

“He just needs to get fitter and he will. He’s come from the UK where he’s just come out of a pre-season so he hasn’t really had a run of games. It’s a similar story to Will Patching where he went to Notts County and it didn’t really work and maybe the style in that league didn’t suit him.

“But since he’s come here he’s found a home and he’s thriving and hopefully we can see the same from Diallo."


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