Rovers face UCD in Belfield on Friday evening with kick-off at 7.45pm. The match will be streamed live on LOITV
Rovers won a crucial point in Derry last week to retain our four-point lead, courtesy of Graham Burke’s late penalty equaliser. You stated, however, that you were unhappy with our first-half performance in terms of our “decision making”, can you explain what you mean by that?
“If you look back, anything Derry had in the first half, any momentum in the game or any chances they had, came off the back of us making really poor decisions that we don’t normally make and we made a lot of them in the first half. It was different things, giving the ball away when we’re in possession, then for a set play, at a corner or free kick or throw in, we weren’t switched on. We allowed them to dictate what happened from that and that’s very unlike us. We gave Derry a bit of a foothold in the game and if you watch it back, it wasn’t as if they dominated the game in any way, shape or form. We weren’t at our levels, and we gave up too much of the game because we were sloppy in our decision-making.”
The Virgin media commentary team did say you looked unhappy as halftime approached and you’ve stated you were, so is that taken into the dressing room? Or do you have to remain calm while explaining your unhappiness to the lads and addressing the issues?
“The good thing about this group is they understand when we’ve hit our levels and when we haven’t. Last Friday in the dressing room the players knew that the first half wasn’t good enough. It’s up to us as staff to relay why it wasn’t good enough and fix it, but the players are experienced enough and when you’re in this group of players and you’ve performed at the level you’ve performed, you’ll know the first half wasn’t us. They knew themselves and it was up to us as staff to make them understand why and how it was happening and make sure we improved in the second half, and I thought we were excellent second half. We took control second half, Derry had one or two moments but in the main, we took control of the game.”
You withdrew both Ronan Finn and Seán Kavanagh at HT, as both were on yellow cards, did the cards accelerate that decision or were the changes totally tactical given our first half?
“The yellow cards definitely influenced how quickly we made that decision. The two subs would’ve been made during the game, it was always our intention to bring Trevor and Neil on. We know how much they cause them problems; they cause any team problems. But two yellow cards on that pitch, on the night that’s in it, it would’ve been silly to continue and hope they get through the next twenty minutes. So, it was about taking that decision away from them in terms of the referee.”
The official highlights package doesn’t show the quality of our play for the build-up from our penalty area to the penalty we got, but it was put up in its entirety elsewhere. Is that exactly what you mean when you so often say “Trust the process”, particularly with only six minutes to go and chasing the game that we played so calmly in that moment?
“We’ve shown throughout the years, it’s one thing we always say, trust the process, trust what we do. We know the processes are good, so if we trust them, the outcome we know more times than not, is good. We don’t revert to kicking the ball long or kick in hope, we trust what we do. Second half as I said, we had a foothold in the game and the penalty incident sums up the good play. It was really clever play right from the start of the move and we got the penalty from it. But we always preach that to the players, trust the process, trust what we do as nine times out of ten it’s enough to get us the results.”
On that point, during the Ireland v Netherlands game, RTE’s co-commentator wondered would Stephen Kenny send Shane Duffy up front as Ireland chased the game 2-1 down. Is that something that is completely alien to your football philosophy as our equaliser in Derry bore out and how this team plays their football or has modern football in general moved away from that tactic of sending the big lad up top?
“I always think there’s a time and a place for it and I don’t think it’ll ever die out. We know nine times out of ten, goals are scored in the box. If you put the ball in the box, more often than not you’re going to have an opportunity to score. But there are ways of getting it there. If you control the way it gets there, you’ve more chance of controlling it in and around the box. With hit and hope, anything can happen and you’re hoping for a bounce or a ricochet to go for you. But the tactic isn’t dead and will never be dead, but for us, it’s different than international football as we’re week to week and they’re every few months. So, it’s a lot more results-driven for international football. Our process every week is that over the course of a season, it turns out how we want it and that’s why we stick to it. But I do understand the calls in the last minute in international football to get it in the box!”
This weekend’s game sees us back to play UCD in Belfield, a 3-0 win there for us last time. Absolutely no room for complacency at this stage of the season, does the playing surface there help or hinder us from our experience playing there?
“The surface is usually decent, and I was at the Derry game there recently and it looked good. But that’s irrelevant, our aim is to go there, perform and win the game. We know we need to focus and to respect UCD. It’s the same three points that were on offer last week in Derry or against Bohs or Dundalk. Nothing changes in our mindset.”
Finally, Johnny Kenny didn’t make Derry last week, what was his injury and is he back? Is Jack any closer or is anyone else unavailable?
“Johnny was injured in the first Ireland U21 game and withdrew from the second game. When we got him scanned it was a ten-day injury so he should be fine for next week (Shelbourne at home). We missed Johnny in Derry as we know what he can bring to us, but the injury is not too bad. We’re assessing Jack today and see how he is, his fitness is at a really good level with running and bike work. But there are times when he kicks the ball a certain way or when he turns, it’s catching him so that’s the problem. Jack is working really hard, but as I say it’s kicking and turning certain ways is the issue. Hopefully today it might be manageable for him and he’ll be just there in terms of a return.”