Kenny Shiels has hailed tomorrow night’s opponents Shamrock Rovers as the strongest side in the Premier Division.
The Derry City manager is ‘amazed’ that Stephen Bradley’s side are not challenging for the title with Cork City, insisting that the quality in the Tallaght team and the strength in depth makes them arguably the most dangerous side in the top flight.
Stephen Bradley’s side have recently begun to find their feet after a difficult start to the season, during which they lost six league games. That form has been much improved of late, with only Cork City and Bray Wanderers, in first and second place, bettering the form of the Dubliners.
“Shamrock Rovers have the strongest panel of players in the league in every aspect and that’s where we can get some satisfaction,” Shiels explained.
“I’m amazed, that despite everything we have gone through this season, we are a point ahead of Shamrock Rovers going into the latter part of May. That’s unbelievable. I never expected to be ahead of them because of the money they have spent and the players they have brought in. They have taken the two best players from Dundalk, they have taken players from England, they have brought in so many good players that it’s unbelievable that we are a point ahead of them and that gives us some hope.”
Rovers have managed to creep up the league table in recent weeks and they now sit just one point behind Derry City in fourth place. But Rovers’ resurgence comes as no surprise to Shiels, who expected that, and more from the Tallaght team.
“They have the strongest team in the league, they have the most physical team, but they have the worst disciplinary record in the league and I just hope that we have good protection for our players,” the City boss continued. “We don’t go in with fear, but sometimes that can have an influence on young players and we have to make them aware that they have to battle and fight against this team.
We’re all shocked that Rovers are not up at the top of the table along with Cork and I think it should only be a matter of time. They have a great deck of cards in the players that they have and I think they are going to be hard to beat in the second half of the season. It’s a good measurement for us to see how we do against this great team.”
Shiels has left the disappointment of last week’s draw in Limerick behind him as he prepares his team for two significant games in the next five days, against Rovers and league champions Dundalk. The City boss is only interested in looking ahead.
“It makes us stronger and it makes us more determined,” he stated.
“We have to be like that because that’s the way the game is. You can lose games in the last minute. In the last six games we’ve come through undefeated but we’re still questioning ourselves. We have drawn five and won one but you know yourself that we could have had a better total. Most neutral observers will agree that we should have.
“I think the satisfaction that we can take from the games that we haven’t won is that we have been dominant in them all practically with a very inexperienced team. The learning that is going on in there has been absolutely fantastic for the young boys to learn, by making mistakes, by not closing out games. Whilst that learning is going on, they are getting better and better and when they encounter those similar scenarios again, they will have learned from those experiences before and they will deal with it better.
“There are areas which I feel we need to improve and we have looked at that this week and we are addressing them. The boys have worked hard and they are fully aware of what is expected.”
Lukas Schubert is available for selection this week after missing the game at Limerick due to a family bereavement.
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