The death of McBride, the club’s captain, stunned the Brandywell men last month and sent a shockwave through Irish sport.
Munster coach Anthony Foley’s death last October similarly rocked the province but his passing has brought the squad closer and on the verge of European glory. Doherty believes Derry can draw strength from that example.
“Munster found themselves in that difficult situation and it galvanised them,” said goalkeeper Doherty. “They got together and there’s no sub for hard work along with your friends and that’s more or less our counselling.
“As a group, we are lucky we have somebody like Kenny Shiels as our manager.
“Kenny can read people well and he knows how we are all feeling and it sounds a bit cheesy to say it but he is the main man for us for counselling. We don’t need to see anyone, we can look after ourselves and with Kenny there, we know we’re in good hands.”
Doherty took on the captaincy from McBride. “I like the responsibility. I’ve always been very vocal in the changing room and on game night and around training too. The only strange thing for me getting appointed captain would be not giving Ryan back the armband because I knew how much it meant to him being the captain and going out on the pitch and being our leader on the pitch.”
Derry went down 3-2 at home to Bray last weekend, undone by a last-minute goal after coming from 2-0 down. It was their first game since McBride’s death but Doherty said the occasion at their temporary home of Maginn Park in Buncrana did not overawe the Foylesiders.
“It was emotional but to be brutally honest the boys were focused on the game.
“Even the week leading up to it, everybody was okay and as you know in football it only takes the boys to get together for a week and work hard and you can pull yourself out of any situation.
“It’s slightly difference because Ryan would have been one of the guys working hardest with all this stuff if it had been the other way around.
“But I’ve seen last week boys fighting for each other in training leading up to the Bray game. It was really intense and Ryan would have been really proud of that himself.”
Derry have injury problems with striker Rory Patterson facing an extended spell on the sidelines with a serious ankle injury, while Doherty himself is very doubtful after a nasty collision with a post attempting to block a free-kick against Bray.
Former Cork City man Eric Grimes will start if, as expected, the skipper does not recover. The captain remains confident the club can cope with the setbacks.
“Last season, defenders Aaron Barry and Ryan McBride were out for a long time and other boys came in and we dealt with it. We have to be adaptable, the same as last year. We know we have the ability to go on and win the league. It’s just about getting consistency. Dundalk have had it and Cork, though they just fell short, but that’s the level we’re looking to achieve.
“We’re not settling for qualifying for Europe. Cork are top on merit but they are there to be knocked off their perch and we’re going to be the next team to go there and try and do that.”
Cork manager John Caulfield is taking nothing for granted, despite hailing the first-half performance in the 3-0 win over Limerick last weekend as the club’s best display of the season.
“This is probably our most difficult test to date,” said Caulfield. “We watched the match against Bray and I’d say Kenny Shiels is still scratching his head how they didn’t win the match. They’d four absolute sitters.
“Derry are a very creative team, and are very dangerous on the counter-attack and I actually think that being away from home after all they’ve been through will suit them.
“With the start they’ve had they’ve shown they’re a serious contender. They are a coming team. Like us a couple of years ago, they are under the radar, not getting the credit they deserve. It’s massive. For me, it’s our most dangerous test so far.”
Caulfield is boosted by the return to fitness of Greg Bolger after a calf injury while Steven Beattie is also available to face his old club. John Dunleavy is out but French attacker Achille Campion is now doubtful.
Sean Maguire will lead the line tonight looking to keep up a run of form which has made him the hottest property in the League of Ireland. He terrorised Limerick at the Markets Field as he clocked up his seventh league goal of the season.
Cork midfielder Gearóid Morrissey - a scorer himself in the 3-0 win at the Markets Field - says there is no limit to the Kilkenny man’s potential.
“John has given him the time and he’s rewarded him,” says Morrissey. “He’s only 22 - he’s going to do unbelievable things in his career.
“Why not give him an international call-up? You see Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle in the international squad.
“I think it is obviously a massive step up and you have to be realistic about it, you’re not going to do it straight away, but I think if they give him the time, he has everything to step up.”