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'They have put themselves right up there to challenge for the league title'

Cork boss John Caulfield has heaped praise on Derry ahead of the sides’ meeting tonight.

Derry City face Cork at the Brandywell this evening.
Derry City face Cork at the Brandywell this evening.
Image: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

SSE AIRTRICITY LEAGUE leaders Cork face a challenging match with fourth-place Derry City at the Brandywell this evening.

John Caulfield’s side have been excellent at Turner’s Cross this season, with a victory over Limerick last Saturday maintaining their 100% home record.

However, their away record will give Kenny Shiels’ side scope for optimism, with the Leesiders suffering three losses and one draw so far on their travels.

After an unconvincing start to the season, Derry have improved significantly, going on a 10-match unbeaten run before last week’s surprise loss to bottom-of-the-table Bray Wanderers, though their confidence will have been boosted by an emphatic 7-3 win over Shelbourne in the EA Sports Cup on Monday.

It is the first time the two sides have come up against one another this season, with Cork winning two and drawing one of their encounters last year.

Speaking ahead of the game, Cork boss John Caulfield said: “It has been very, very intense in recent weeks and I think that is why you have seen results that are unpredictable, compared to other years. To have a complete week of training before going up to Derry is something we are happy about.”

The 53-year-old coach paid tribute to Derry, suggesting they are good enough to challenge for the title this season.

“They have a very good home record, they are unbeaten and they have scored a lot of goals. They have a young, dynamic team with a lot of wise heads in amongst them. The likes of Doherty, Peers and Patterson are guys who have been around the league a long time and know it inside out. They also have the likes of McEneff, Curtis and Hale. They are a bit like ourselves, their home record is really good and they have put themselves right up there to challenge for the league title.

“We know it will be a very difficult game, as it always is at the Brandywell, but, at the same time, we are going up there with a full squad. The guys coming in off the bench are doing really well, and that is important.”

Defender Alan Bennett, who returned from injury on Saturday, added: “It was great to be back, really good. It went on a bit longer than I thought it would, which was a bit disappointing, but it is gone now, so it is all good.”

It (Limerick) was a good game to come back into and it was a good game in the sense that, maybe in the past, we would have drawn that game, having missed the penalty and conceded, but I think this group has moved beyond that in terms of mentality and strength of character.”

“John has been building up the squad and the strength in depth slowly but surely over the last few years. If you go back, he was bringing on young lads, inexperienced lads off the bench, but now you are bringing in guys with big experience and high levels of game time under their belts; you have to make an impact and that is what he wants.”

Johnny Dunleavy will be unavailable for Cork as he continues his rehabilitation from injury, while Gearóid Morrissey, Shane Griffin, Steven Beattie and Bennett are all doubts for the game.

Meanwhile, Derry boss Kenny Shiels indicated he could rest a few players owing to the hectic schedule of recent weeks.

“We have to take things one game at a time but we can’t ignore the fact that the big matches are coming thick and fast,” he told reporters. “We don’t have any major injuries as such but when you play so many games in a short space of time the little niggles start to come into play.”

“You saw our training session this morning where a couple of lads sat it out. Sometimes something like that can help ease things a bit.”

Ahead of the game, Shiels also refused to be drawn on the subject of Ireland U21 international Ronan Curtis’ future.

“I’ve nothing new to add,” he said. “Any discussions between Ronan’s representatives and other clubs is out of my hands. I hope he will be here for our European campaign but that’s not up to me.”

Premier Division fixtures

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First Division fixtures

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