Derry City and Sligo Rovers look to make strong opening statements – The Irish Times


Derry City v Riga FC (Latvia), Brandywell, 7:45 p.m. – Live LOITV

“With Derry City we already know what to expect and what football they play because we played in Dundalk recently,” Riga FC assistant coach Kristaps Blanks said. “Same stadiums, same fans, same religion, same everything.”

The Brandywell might have something to say about that. Making a dent in Europe must be high on Derry City owner Philip O’Doherty’s priority list, but for manager Ruaidhrí Higgins, finishing second in the league behind Shamrock Rovers and capturing silverware like the FAI Cup would represent a successful campaign.

Higgins’ side remain under construction, so a European odyssey seems unlikely, but failing to reach the second round, where winners Ružomberok (Slovakia) and Kauno Žalgiris (Lithuania) await, would be a black mark on Candystripes’ aspirations to keep pace with Rovers over the next few seasons.

Fresh off a 3-2 win over the Bohemians at Dalymount Park, Cameron Dummigan is unlikely to return from injury, but Patrick McEleney and Will Patching bring valuable experience from Dundalk’s recent European outings, and in Brian Maher they possess the current Irish Under-21 goalkeeper.

At their best this season, Derry outlasted Rovers, albeit in February, so a repeat performance will make next week’s trip to Latvia less daunting than a draw tonight or a slim lead.

“It’s a 180-minute football game,” Higgins said now that the away goal has been abolished. “And like you said, you felt like you were 2-0 down if you conceded an away goal, but now nothing really changes. It’s just a normal game of football, a game 180 minute football actually – that’s how I see it.

“We want to be positive, attack and try to win the game.”

Bala Town v Sligo Rovers, Park Hall, England, 7pm – Live LOTV

Home away from home, the game takes place at Park Hall on the English border, an hour’s drive from the picturesque town of Bala and its population of 1,974, less than the 2,000 capacity of the Shropshire. So Sligo should really do some light work on the Cymru Premier Division runners-up.

For Rovers fans who can’t or won’t fly to Liverpool or Birmingham, LOITV is showing the game live for €7. Considering that enough momentum was generated by Shelbourne’s 3-1 loss on Saturday, a clean progression to the second round looks certain here, with prize money rising from €150,000 to €350,000 for another Celtic duel against Motherwell.

Airtricity League Premier Division

UCD vs. Bohemians, UCD Bowl, 7:45 p.m.

Such an unmissable match as the Bohs are likely to encounter this season. The students remain competitive, despite the loss of Ireland Under-21 stars Colm Whelan and Liam Kerrigan. But the Premier Division table doesn’t lie to either club after 21 appearances with UCD managing just one win while Keith Long’s charges can close the gap to three points behind fifth-placed Sligo and so ending a two-game losing streak. Dawson Devoy and Promise Omochere are expected to shine brightest on campus.

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