Derby win key to Gor Mahia's title defence, says McKinstry

Gor Mahia coach Johnathan McKinstry

Gor Mahia coach Johnathan McKinstry issues instructions to his players during a training session at MPesa Foundation Academy in Thika, Kiambu County on April 18, 2024.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Title favourites Gor top the FKF-PL standings with 54 points from 26 matches
  • McKinstry said he expects his side to perform well in the match
  • On Thursday, K’Ogalo got a major boost in their preparations for the match following the return of their dependable right-back Rooney Onyango

Gor Mahia coach Johnathan McKinstry has said that the team will launch its quest to finish top in every category of this season’s Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKF-PL) when they host arch-rivals AFC Leopards in the "Mashemeji" derby on Sunday.

The clash between the two biggest football clubs will go down at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi from 3pm.

Defending champions Gor are the hosts and will be bidding to complete the double over their eternal rivals after winning the first-leg encounter 2-0 at Moi International Sports Centre (MISC), Kasarani, on October 14 last year.

“We have got the best defensive and attack records in the league. We want to make sure that we are number one in all categories after the next eight matches. That starts on Sunday against Leopards,” affirmed McKinstry.

The Irishman spoke Thursday at MPesa Foundation Academy in Thika, Kiambu County, after leading the team's training session.

Title favourites Gor top the FKF-PL standings with 54 points from 26 matches.

Kenya Police are second with 45 points, while Bandari and Tusker follow in that order with 44 and 43 points, respectively.

Tusker is the only team in the league that has thus far scored more goals than Gor at 35. K’Ogalo has found the back of the net 33 times, with their lethal striker, Benson Omala, scoring most of the goals at 11.

Police striker Tito Okello is second in the top scorer’s chart with 10 goals. Gor is thus far the best team defensively in the league, having conceded 12 goals all season.

Leopards are second on the defensive record charts, having let in 17 goals, while Police (19) are third.

McKinstry said he expects his side to perform well in the match.

He said he is not under pressure heading into the potentially explosive match since his charges have always risen to the occasion in the big matches.

“If all our match winners have a good day at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday, then we are not going to be far away from three points and that does not disrespect any opponent,” said the 38-year-old tactician.

“It (Gor leading the standings) is because we have good players who can perform under pressure. Our record against the top eight teams this season has generally been very good. The character of this Gor Mahia team is that when the big games come around, they turn up to play. Our supporters can expect that the guys will turn up with a serious, intense, and committed head on. We just ask the fans to come in their numbers and be that 12th man.”

On Thursday, K’Ogalo got a major boost in their preparations for the match following the return of their dependable right-back Rooney Onyango.

Onyango was substituted in Gor’s 3-1 win over Nzoia Sugar at Sudi Stadium in Bungoma last weekend after picking a knock on his ankle.

McKinstry said he is pleased with his return to training and expects him to be fit for the match.

“He has responded well to the medical team's treatment. He trained today and though he is still not at 100 percent fit, we are confident he will be ready for the match."

Omala said he can't wait to score again in the derby and help his side win the match.

“As a striker, it is very important and a good feeling to score in such a match. I want to increase my goals tally,” said the striker, who netted a brace in K’Ogalo’s 2-0 win on Ingwe in the first-leg encounter.

Owalo's token

Meanwhile, Gor Mahia players Thursday received a boost ahead of the "Mashemeji" derby on Sunday after Information, Communication and Digital Communication Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo donated Sh500,000 to the club.

CS Owalo, a K’Ogalo die-hard, donated the money to the players after training at MPesa Foundation Academy in Thika, Kiambu County.

He urged Gor to increase their chances of clinching the unprecedented 21st FKF-PL title by winning their next three matches, including that against their arch-rivals AFC Leopards at Nyayo National Stadium.

“I want to appeal to you to win the derby. We have to retain the league so that we can play in the continental competition (Caf Champions League) next year. To enable us to achieve that dream, we start by winning the derby and we are looking forward to an exciting match,” said the CS.

CS Owalo also urged K’Ogalo fans to show up in large numbers at the stadium to cheer the team.

Mapema ndio best (the earlier the better), 6am we are at Nyayo National Stadium,”  the CS told Gor fans.

He was accompanied by MPesa Foundation Academy Chief Executive Officer Tony Eysele and Gor’s chairman Ambrose Rachier, among other dignitaries. The match’s VIP tickets will retail at Sh1,000 and regular tickets at Sh300.

In a statement on Thursday, FKF said fans can purchase the tickets on Sunday, starting at 7am at Kenya Cinema, Tom Mboya statue, City Stadium, Riadha House and Nyayo National Stadium opposite the Police Post gate.

All gates will be closed at 2:30pm.