City have made a good start to the season yet will also feel disappointed at their last two home results, particularly in a patchy performance against Sligo Rovers.
As Shamrock Rovers continues to stutter, Derry could have really turned up the pressure on the champions, but two draws against Dundalk and Sligo did little to do so.
Shels will provide Derry with another stringent test, buoyed by a professional display in Cork last time out which took them into the top half of the table.
Duff’s side have conceded just three goals in six matches and their home record is particularly strong, holding Shamrock Rovers and inflicting the only defeat for Bohemians so far this season.
Derry meet Shels for the first time since their Cup final demolition of the Tolka Park outfit last November, but they are expecting a very different game in Drumcondra this weekend.
The 2023 season has started reasonably for Damien Duff’s side, with a win at home to table toppers Bohemians the pick of their results
Derry’s Assistant manager Alan Reynolds insisted that the visitors are braced for a testing evening on Dublin’s northside
“They’re always really well organised and are a very difficult team to play against, especially at home,” he said.
“We know tonight will be exactly the same and while we’re glad to get back playing again, we’ll have to be at our best if we’re to give ourselves a chance of winning.”
City’s injury list probably meant that the recent break came at a good time, however the Waterford man is circumspect ahead of the game, noting that Mark Connolly remains the only player definitively ruled out.
“We’ve said recently that a few of the injured lads were getting close to a return and that’s very much the case now.
“We know we’re going to be missing Mark Connolly, but him apart, the rest of the squad is in, or near to being in contention at this stage.”
“As Ruaidhri has said, the lads who have come in have done a fantastic job. We’re very happy with the options we have and that quality in the squad will stand us in good stead in a long season.”
It’s the beginning of an intense sequence of games for the 2023 runners-up, with home games against Drogheda United and Bohemians before an away trip to Oriel Park.
Damien Duff was full of praise for tonight’s opponents, and expects them to push all the way for the title.
“Top team Derry, they’ve footballing greats in their team, some proper players, some of the top talent in the League of Ireland. That quality isn’t easy to match; they can affect and win games, and that’s what we saw in the FAI Cup final.
“Bohs have got off to a great start. Derry will be title contenders, the gap between Rovers and Derry is closing, I’ve said before I still think Rovers are the team, leading the way in Ireland.
“Derry are right up there, I’ve huge respect for their manager Ruaidhrí Higgins, he’s a great guy and I’ve a lot of admiration for him and the job he’s doing.”
JJ Lunney, Mark Coyle, Paddy Barrett, and Jad Hakiki and Kian Leavy all return for Shels, while Conor Kane and Sean Boyd remain on the long term injured list.Tags: