Derry City’s Mark Connolly expecting tough test from Bruno Magpies

The Candystripes face the Gibraltar side in the first leg of the Uefa Europa Conference League on Thursday

Derry City's Mark Connolly
Derry City defender Mark Connolly has no doubt that a tough test awaits his side in Gibraltar. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET McLAUGHLIN PICTURES / C)

WHILE the bookies have made Derry City favourites for tomorrow’s Europa Conference League, first leg tie at Bruno Magpies, defender Mark Connolly is taking nothing for granted.

The centre-back knows that the Gibraltar side will be well organised, as he has worked with Magpies boss Nathan Rooney at Crawley Town during the 2018-19 season.

Rooney was assistant head coach to Italian manager Gabriele Cioffi during Connolly’s second stint at the League Two side in 2018.

“Look, there is definitely nothing easy in Europe,” he insisted.

“Last year was my first experience of playing in Europe and to end up getting six games was amazing.

“We just missed out in a penalty shoot-out to get into a play-off to get into the group stages and that shows how amazing and how well we did last year. But this year we know that it’s not going to be easy.

“I think for people starting to write teams off straight away is very disrespectful. We know as a group, and I know myself having played against one or two of their players and having worked with their manager whenever I was at Crawley, that it’s not going to be an easy task. It’s something we need to be ready for, right from the off.

“Listen, they’re a good team and they’ve signed big Ash Taylor, who I know from playing up in Scotland. He also played for a few teams in England and is a very strong defender.They’ve a few other who are good players too, so as I said it’s going to be difficult.

“I know Nathan (Rooney), their manager; he’s a good coach and he knows the game, so I know he’ll have them well drilled.”

Connolly expects the temperature, which is likely to be in the 30s at the 5pm kick-off time, will play a big part too

The Clones native concedes that Ruaidhrí Higgins has been tapping into the knowledge of striker Pat Hoban and Daniel Kelly, the duo having played for the Oriel Park men against Bruno last season in the Europa Conference League.

“Dundalk played Bruno last year and they drew at their place and I think they beat Crusaders a few years ago, so it’s not going to be easy at their place, but we have to go there and try and get a result.

“We’ve spoken to both Pat and Daniel briefly about them and they’ve let us know that it’s not going to be an easy task. Bruno have had a lot of changes since they played Dundalk, but Pat and Daniel told us what we’re going to expect in terms of the surface and the ground.

“So, we’ll be looking to put in a good performance, make sure that we give ourselves a chance and take it back to the Brandywell. If we can do that then that will be good for us.

“At the Brandywell over the last number of years we’ve been strong, especially this year.

Connolly also expects a good buzz around Gibraltar, with over 200 away supporters expected to make the trip.

“It’s amazing to see how many people are going to Gibraltar for the first leg,” he explained.

“It’s brilliant for the fans, because some will probably make a holiday around the tie as well, which is amazing for them.

“Unfortunately we’ll not be going out sunning ourselves or anything like that. It will just be all about work.