Like so many Derry City fans last night, I was delighted that Decky Devine's men had secured their place in the Setanta Cup final at the expense of Shamrock Rovers. They now face an interesting tie at Windsor Park with Irish Premiership outfit Crusaders, who disposed of Sligo Rovers in a thrilling encounter, on Saturday May 12th. However, despite the elation of reaching the final of the Setanta Cup for the first time, it was also pointed out that, on the night, City lost 0-2 at home, making that two successive home defeats and four defeats overall in all competitions.
Granted, four defeats in 15 competitive games is not a despicable record, by any means - Derry have impressively won eight of their games and drawn three. The real concern for Candystripe fans however, is that three of those four defeats have come in the league, meaning that Derry are already chasing the pack. The Foylesiders currently sit in sixth place in the league, with 11 points from eight games, trailing league leaders Sligo Rovers by nine points.
But before the anxiety really sets in, it is vitally important for the fans to consider that the season is still in its early stages. In that context, reaching a cup final, disposing of Irish giants such as Linfield and Shamrock Rovers on the way, is a marvellous achievement. It is all the more remarkable when you take into account that Declan Devine is, after all, still in the process of finding his feet as a manager and that he has been grappling admirably with the problems associated with having a thin squad; injuries are mounting up, with several key players such as Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Rory Patterson ruled out and others playing, as Devine says, "through the pain barrier".
Dealing with such a small squad is not ideal for a club of Derry's stature, a club that hopes to challenge for honours, but one thing that it seems to have fostered is a great sense of team spirit. Almost in spite of the injury set-backs and some surprise defeats, the squad is, nevertheless, demonstrating a bit of character. That said, character doesn't always win trophies and Devine will have to ensure that his team maintains their focus as they head into another crunch fixture with Shamrock Rovers this Friday at Tallaght.
All things considered, if Declan Devine can bring the Setanta Cup to the Brandywell and consolidate a respectable league position in his debut season, perhaps even sneaking a European spot, then the fans, and the board, should be reasonably content. The framework for long-term success is in place and Devine believes that Derry are capable of beating anybody. My only hope is that the squad shares his confidence.