Ruaidhri Higgins is happy to take on the favourites tag for the FAI Cup final, however, the Derry City manager is expecting a close encounter against Shelbourne in Sunday's decider at the Aviva Stadium.

The Candystripes boss is planning to take the cup back up the motorway to Derry after the game but, regardless of the result, Higgins believes his side are on the right road following a very competitive League of Ireland season.

City were the main challengers to champions Shamrock Rovers in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division campaign, and while they faded in the final furlong, eventually finishing 13 points behind the Hoops, they held on to a deserved second-place finish.

European football is guaranteed for next season on the banks of the Foyle, and now Derry are looking to sign off in style by securing their sixth FAI Cup success.

"The excitement is building, I can’t wait and there is a really good spirit in the town, which is great to see," said Higgins, speaking to RTE Sport.

"We’re delighted with the progress we’re making, and we’re on the right road. In a short space of time, we’ve made significant progress and it would be amazing to top it off with a bit of silverware."

Derry players celebrating the semi-final win over Treaty United

Higgins is happy with his options ahead of Sunday’s clash and admits that he used the last couple of league games to manage some players to ensure he has the best available eleven on the pitch at Lansdowne Road.

The manager will be looking to key men like Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy to lead by example, having played in several showpiece games while at Dundalk, while he anticipates that one of his emerging players may steal the spotlight come Sunday.

"The games have been very tight between us, and that is all we can go with. I expect it to be very tight again on Sunday," said Higgins. "If we get the favourites tag, that’s fair enough but it will be a very, very tight game.

"We have players who have really good experience at this level and it’s brilliant as a manager to have that experience, Michael Duffy scored a cup final goal, Patrick McEleney scored a cup final goal, and it’s great to have those players taking the pitch on Sunday.

"We have a mixture of good experience and a real core of emerging players and normally on days like this it’s one of that crop that come to the fore and make a real name for themselves."

Damien Duff's Shelbourne - as the Dublin club have been called all season

As for his opposition number, Higgins has full respect for Shels boss, Damien Duff, and the Derry manager is also quite content that a lot of the hype will be centred around the former Ireland winger.

"It will be a special occasion first and foremost," said Higgins. "Damien had an amazing football career and he is a fantastic coach as well.

"I understand and I’m completely comfortable that a lot of the hype and media attention will be around him, as he’s one of the greatest players to put on the green jersey.

"I’ve seen him in the training ground and I’ve seen how he works, and I have no doubt that he will put him mark on the football team.

"Let’s not underestimate the size of Shelbourne football club, they have a rich history. We’re not taking them lightly, it’s a very even game but it is one that we want to come out on top in.

"We’ll be well prepared coming down here on Sunday, and we’ll be trying to take the cup back up the motorway."

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The last time that Derry won the cup in 2012, the manager was involved in a playing capacity, as the Candystripes beat St Patrick’s Athletic 3-2 after extra time - however, Higgins believes a victory on Sunday will be the high point of his sporting career.

"It would be the proudest moment of my football career without a doubt," said Higgins.

"Leading this club out at the Aviva Stadium is something special, but to be a winning manager would be even more special.

"I think we all know that Derry is a real fanatical football town. All the talk around Derry is about the cup final and we want to make those people proud of us."

Watch the FAI Cup final, Derry City v Shelbourne, live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Sunday from 2.15pm with live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 and follow a live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app