Not Another FAI Cup Final Preview
Following what has been an anus horrible of a season with regards to the profile of eircom League football, we are left with the Ford FAI Cup Final to redeem some respectability for a tarnished product.
The pairing of Derry City and Bohemians may not produce the most spectacular of games, but it does have the potential to serve up ninety minutes of quality. It has been well documented that the Candystripes have been a bogey side for Bohs during 2008, so I won't repeat it. Except to say that the Gypsys failed to score against them in each of the three league meetings this year; the League Cup encounter doesn't count.
That not said, because I didn't repeat it, Derry have managed just once to pierce the solid rearguard created by Sean Connor but remixed by Pat Fenlon. So what we don't want - by we I mean the neutrals - is for Bohs to open the scoring.
There are set to be intriguing contests throughout the park. Nutsy, ever-cautious - can be expected to target the influence of Niall McGinn as the greatest threat to his side's success. The sight of the newly-crowned Young Player of the Year bearing down on Owen Heary is a porn director's dream.
Back on track now; if brought to bear, Mc Ginn's pace and confidence will negate Heary's attacking influence and the experienced defender often forms the nucleus of Bohs' forward momentum. That's not to say that the Gypsys' captain provides their only outlet. The right-side of midfield is a berth which has been filled by a succession of players this term; amongst them Joxer, Micheal Kalounas, Jason Byrne, Anto Murphy and latterly Brendan McGill. I'd expect Jayo to get the nod as he has performed well there in a mainly defensive role before - not to mention his goalscoring prowess.
Jason McGuinness' aerial threat will be missed at deadball situations; it may have come in handy to thwart the efforts of Clive Delaney at the other end also. Derry City's greatest strength this year has been Stephen Kenny's determination to present his side with attacking widemen. On the right flank, Gareth McGlynn should return refreshed to the fray after a brief injury absence. For those of you seeking a return to the porn theme, there are possibilities within that sentence.
McGlynn has regularly been City's best player for my money this season; not as obvious to the naked eye as the eyecatching pace and artistry of McGinn, he is nonetheless possessed of a rare combination of work ethic and talent. Killian Brennan will know he has been in a game, after the mini-Mc's of McCallion and McGlynn have done with him.
Therein may lie the matchwinner though - whether or no Brennan is subdued throughout the contest, he needs but one accommodating deadball position to tilt the game in the Dublin club's favour. Derry do not possess a similarly potent threat.
Neale Fenn will offer a torment afternoon for the aging but willing legs of Peter Hutton. No footballer better encapsulates the meaning of the word fulcrum than the former Cork City frontman. His renaissance under Nutsy's tutelage offers a lift from the mundanity of Bohs' humdrum rhythm.
We must hope that this Final does not descend into a dour midfield battle, for there is the centre of the humdrum. It is in this area that the champions are at their most oppressively affective. It's a case of any two from three with the return from suspension of Stephen O'Donnell. Glenn Cronin was the Galwayman's regular partner - stop it! - before injury afforded Gary Deegan the opportunity to swap studmarks with the league's best midfielders. Barry Molloy offers similar talents to City's cause - Kevin Deery less so; Ruairdhi Higgins' silken passing may be deemed a luxury in the face of such aggression. Ciaran Martyn has started only 16 of Derry's near fifty outings this term.
The calculating and minimalist nature of Bohemians' style is underpinned perfectly by the understated excellence of goalkeeper Brian Murphy. Easily the league's best netminder, he presents an awesome challenge after you have beaten your way past Liam Burns and Ken Oman; for all his talents, Ger Doherty does not carry the same aura of unbeatability.
Here's to a game that showcases the best of our talent in a fashion which helps us to forget, even temporarily, about our horrible arse of a year.