Preview: Shelbourne vs. Derry City

Preview: Shelbourne vs. Derry City

Shelbourne can move six points behind Derry City with two games in hand by beating them on Friday.

The visitors are second in the Irish Premier Division table ahead of their trip to Dublin.

Having bounced between Ireland’s top two divisions in recent years when winning the second-tier title in 2019 and 2021, former Chelsea and Newcastle United winger Damien Duff is attempting to stabilise Shelbourne after guiding them to a seventh-placed finish last season.

After learning his coaching trade as Celtic’s first team coach and Republic of Ireland’s assistant manager, Duff is embarking on his first senior managerial role, having been appointed as the club’s manager in November 2021.

The 44-year-old is clearly keen on implementing defensive rigidity first and foremost, with his team boasting the best defensive record in the entire division, but only rock-bottom Unviersity College Dublin have scored fewer goals than their tally of 20 from 21 games.

However, Duff may argue that he is merely working with the tools which he has been provided with, but last Friday’s 1-0 defeat away to St Patrick’s Athletic was the fourth time that Shelbourne have blanked in their last six matches, suggesting that he has problems to solve ahead of hosting high-flying Derry this week.

Despite being the only team from Northern Ireland to compete in the Republic of Ireland’s top division, Derry have established themselves as one of the stronger sides competing south of the border in recent years.

Excluding the COVID-interrupted campaign in 2020, Derry have finished in the top-four places in each of the last three seasons, with Ruaidhri Higgins impressively guiding them to a second-placed finish last time around.

However, the Candystripes are without a title triumph since their second in the club’s history in the 1996-97 season, and despite their lofty position by the end of the last campaign, they ended up being a sizable 13 points behind champions Shamrock Rovers.

As such, Derry’s 1-0 defeat away to Shamrock on Monday was a huge blow to their title hopes, as it left them seven points behind their rivals, who will take some stopping at this stage of proceedings.

Higgins must ensure that his players quickly bounce back, otherwise they could find themselves embroiled in a battle to hold onto second spot rather than aspiring for even greater things.

Shelbourne League of Ireland Premier form:

Derry City League of Ireland Premier form:

We say: Shelbourne 1-0 Derry City
Shelbourne should be the fresher team having not featured since last Friday, whereas Derry could be demoralised and fatigued after their 1-0 defeat to Shamrock on Monday allowed the reigning champions to extend their gap at the top of the table.

As such, we can envisage Duff’s side returning to winning ways at Tolka Park, with this unlikely to be a high-scoring classic given the hosts’ paucity of goals at either end of the pitch so far this season.

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