Friday night’s game will be televised on Virgin Media 2, kick-off is at 7.45 pm
It’s been two weeks since the 3-0 derby win v Bohs, you’ll have watched it back, what pleased you most about the performance?
“Probably just the manner how we won the game, I thought we were very good in all aspects of our play. We controlled most areas of the game. I can’t remember Bohs having anything of real note in the game or any spells in the game which is unusual for a Dublin derby. I said before the game their attacking players are a real danger so to keep them quiet for 90 minutes was a testament to how we played, so I was really happy with all aspects of the performance”.
International football saw us have another blank weekend last week. Given the Bohs win, would you and the players have preferred a game last week or given what’s in front of us in the run-in, was another rest welcome similar to the recent cup break?
“I’ve always said I feel this team is always at its best when it’s playing regular football, but the international break is the international break so there’s nothing we can do about it. The recent break (FAI cup weekend) allowed us to get bodies back and this break has given us more time to get them fitter and more game-ready, so it’s been good, but you’d always want to play regular games week on week”.
Speaking of international breaks, we saw Aidomo Emakhu score a cracking winner for the Ireland U21’s and we also saw Sinclair Armstrong also score for the U21’s and make his Ireland senior international debut against Holland. It must be a huge source of pride for everyone at Rovers who have played a part in the lads’ journeys to see them doing so well.
“Yeah of course, that’s why you’re in football, to see players progress and play at the highest level possible and try to be successful along the way. It’s brilliant for everyone involved in both players’ careers and lives up to this point, and we’re all extremely proud that they’re doing what they’re doing, but they need to stay focused and keep working hard. They’re only young and you want them to keep rising and getting better and better”.
Pico and Markus also saw international action with Cape Verde and Estonia. Did they come back ok from their own games?
“Yes, both lads are good. Pico was back early in the week and Markus only returned on Wednesday. Johnny Kenny came back (Ireland U21’s) with a little knock which we’ll look at, but Pico and Markus are good. Unfortunately, they both suffered defeats, but returning with no injuries is good”.
The big game of the weekend is away to Derry. They have shown form again recently, this season v Derry we’ve won two and lost one (when we had Pico, Lee and Dan suspended), you’ve gone on record as liking the size of the Brandywell artificial pitch, so are you feeling positive and determined about the game?
“We know Derry are a good side, that hasn’t changed throughout the season. We know they have good players; the game will be a sellout of course. We know it’s a difficult game but it’s one that we’re more than ready for and we’re looking forward to it. We don’t like the surface, but we like the size of the pitch and I think that always helps us up there, the pitch is big and allows us to play our game. But we know it’s a difficult game and we have to respect what Derry have in their team and then impose ourselves on the game as soon as possible”.
Some are labelling this game as a title decider. Are you in agreement with that assertion?
“No, we feel that’s just noise. We’ve been around the block and been here before. We understand that regardless of the result in Derry there are a lot of games to be played. We’ll obviously go there to win the game, no doubt about that, but there’s a long way to go and games to be played regardless the result tomorrow”.
Finally, is Jack Byrne any closer to action since the last update or did any injuries crop up from the Bohs game or at training since?
“Jack is nearer, but he won’t make Derry. He’s getting there but it’s still slower than we all wanted. Jack is frustrated more than anyone, he wants to be on the pitch, and he wants to help the team to achieve our goals. It’s a hard one for him as well as he’s frustrated but your body is your body and it’s telling him he’s still sore, so we have to respect that and get on with it. Other than Johnny’s knock, everyone else is fine, no issues”.