Football: You Kenny Keep the Good Men at Brandywell Down; PREMIER DIVISION: Waterford V Derry City, Tonight, 7.45pm Kick off LIFE IS SWEET FOR STEPHEN'S CANDYSTRIPES
Byline: Garry Doyle
THE summer soccer season has yet to reach the summer but already the league has been divided into predictable groups.
Last season's top four occupy the same positions this term, followed by the remaining three full-time clubs, who in turn are being chased by the five part-timers.
Will they catch up? At this stage it is unlikely and it would be something of a minor miracle if either Drogheda, Cork, Shels, or Derry dropped out of the top four.
If past form is anything to go on, then winning this league requires the victorious squad to have a quorum of remarkable talents who can swing a game in an instant. And while every one of the four big battalions have these players, most of the focus so far this year has been confined to Cork, Shels and the High Kings of the 1-0 wins, Drogheda.
Derry, meanwhile, have taken a decidedly low-key approach to this eircom season but after five games they have registered four wins and collected 12 points.
Tonight they'll be expecting three more against a Waterford team whose home form appears vastly superior to the stuff they produce on the road.
But nothing is being taken for granted, with Derry boss, Stephen Kenny, remembering how Waterford bruised Derry's title hopes at the end of last season, winning 1-0 at the Brandywell.
Kenny said: "Waterford have kept things very tight in their recent home matches.
"And if there is one thing we have learned over the course of the last year, it is to take each game on its own merits and that you can slip up if you are not clinical."
To date, Derry have slipped badly just once, losing 1-0 to Dublin City in Dalymount Park - a team who lost by that same scoreline to the three other title challengers.
Otherwise there have been a ruthless accumulation of points - with home wins against UCD, Sligo and Bohemians followed by a crucial away victory in Longford two weeks ago.
At this juncture, Kenny's urgent, penetrative Derry side, rather than Cork or Shels, look the biggest threat to leaders Drogheda.
Why so? Well, even before Paddy McCourt arrived from Shamrock Rovers to thrill the Brandywell audiences, Derry were shaping up to be an electrifying side.
Now they are maturing nicely, blending miserly defence with surges of adventurous, skilful attacking which has buried opposing sides.
Crudely dismissed by Damien Richardson on the eve of last year's title decider in Cork as set-piece merchants, Derry have added subtly to their panel in the close-season and appear stronger.
Kenny says: "I think we're playing well and I've been happy with the performances that we have produced so far Since I came here, we've been committed to playing a certain way but I'd say that certain players have become more comfortable on the ball in the last couple of months. …