Happy days are here again for Derry man Molloy ahead of Sunday decider

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

SMILES were thin on the ground around the Brandywell in the early part of the season, when a trophy challenge and a push for a European place looked very far away.

But there's music there in the Derry air again as captain Barry Molloy feels that, having got their fans back onside, the City team can deliver against St Patrick's Athletic in Sunday's FAI Ford Cup final at Lansdowne Road.

"We have to go out on Sunday and try to rectify our season by winning the Cup. If we can finish off the season with a trophy and European qualification we can take some pride from the year," says Molloy, the long-serving Derry midfielder who survived that poor start to the season which cost Roddy Collins his job.

"It was a tough year, on and off the pitch, with a change of manager and then losing players in mid-season. Pizza had come in and put his own stamp on it, which has taken time but we are getting to where we want to be."

That start to the season was hard on the Derry fans, who did not take to the tactics deployed by Dubliner Collins, which saw Derry lose their swagger (apart from a 3-2 win over Athlone Town, Derry scored just five goals in the first 12 games).

"It's a happier place now," says Molloy. "The football we are playing is a lot more positive, they boys are all on the same wavelength and we're all heading in the same direction, it's been a difficult job for Peter to turn around what was a difficult start to the season so winning a Cup on Sunday could be great for us.

"We did lose some support, we had people who weren't happy with the way we were playing at the start of the season, it was a more negative brand of football which people here in Derry don't like. But Peter has come in, put his own stamp on it and made us more like the attacking Derry City side that people want and expect.

"The crowd came out in big numbers for the semi-final against Shamrock Rovers and hopefully we can keep those fans, they want to see attacking football and I hope we can give them that."

And Molloy wants to give Derry another Cup win. "I have had a few finals but this will be my first time to lead the team out and it'd be a dream to lift the trophy at the end of it," the midfielder told The Herald.

"We have been there and done it before, I have encountered the feeling of winning and losing an FAI Cup final so I have that experience to call on. As one of the senior players it's up to me to help some of the younger boys along, make sure that they enjoy the experience but also that they give their all.

"It's a massive occasion in a big stadium and some players can freeze on the day. Hopefully that won't happen to us on Sunday and it's a matter for the older players to get that message to the younger lads," he added, hoping for the Europa League place that a Cup win would bring.

"If we are in Europe for next season it will make Derry more attractive for players to come.

"Derry have been a good springboard for players to go across the water and do well so we have that in our favour. The budget for next season would be better if we are in the Europa League.

"If we win on Sunday that could bring its own rewards."