Europa Conference League: Derry boss Higgins urges players to create ‘more memories’

Derry City prepared for their return to European competition by beating Bohemians in Dublin on Friday
Venue: Brandywell Stadium, Derry Date: Thursday July 7 To start up: 7:45 p.m. GMT
Cover: BBC Radio Foyle from 7.30pm BST; Score updates and match report on the BBC Sport NI website

Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins has called on his players to “create even more memories” as European football returns to Brandywell Stadium.

The Candystripes host Riga FC in the first round of Europa Conference League qualifying on Thursday.

Derry’s last home European win was in 2014, but Higgins urged his players to put in a big performance against the Latvian visitors.

Asked how important European nights are to players, Higgins replied: “Massive.”

“You look at Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy, they have won many leagues, cups but if you ask them what their most special memories are, it’s European football and their big nights.

“The Brandywell can be a really special place on a European night and for us to get a positive result we will need the whole pitch to be together.

“The players, the crowd, the staff, everyone and trying to make other memories.”

The Brandywell haven’t hosted a European game since Derry faced Dinamo Minsk in the 2018-19 Europa League qualifiers, while the League of Ireland side’s last home win in European competition is against Welsh side Aberystwyth Town in 2014.

Derry qualified for their maiden Europa Conference League campaign after St Patrick’s Athletic – who had already qualified for Europe – beat the Bohemians in the FAI Cup final last year.

Derry players celebrate with Rory Patterson
Rory Patterson (second from left) was on target in Derry’s last European home win – a 4-0 success against Aberystwyth Town in 2014

Derry secured the FAI Cup winners’ qualifying spot after finishing one place ahead of Bohs in the league, and having beat the Dubliners on FridayHiggins will be hoping his team can maintain their good form in Thursday’s encounter.

“You dream of it but we don’t want to let this opportunity pass us by,” Higgins added ahead of his debut as European manager.

“We want to try to catch it with both hands. We will be underdogs on both legs, but I think given the players we have at our disposal and the crowd we will have at Brandywell, I think we can go there. with a chance to go through the tie.”

Derry goalkeeper Brian Maher, who joined the club in November, admits the eight-month wait after European football shut down has only increased the hunger within the squad.

“It’s been a massive night, especially with the anticipation we’ve had since last November,” said the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international.

“It’s a great night to have but we don’t want it to be a European night at the Brandywell, we want more so hopefully we can start with a good result on Thursday.”

Elsewhere, Sligo Rovers travel to take on Welsh side Bala Town for their first leg on Thursday (7.00pm), while Irish Premiership rivals Crusaders (5.00pm) and Cliftonville (7.30pm) are in action against Bruno’s Magpies and Dunajska Streda from Gibraltar and Slovakia respectively.

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