GAA Football

Division two looks set for a dogfight says Derry's Neil Forester

Derry's Neill Forrester shadows Ryan Pickering of UUJ during their McKenna Cup match at Celtic Park. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Sean Doherty

DERRY'S Neil Forester admits Sunday's draw against Clare in Celtic Park was one the Oak Leafers had ear-marked for two points but stressed they are still aiming for the top of the Division Two table.

Only Kildare and Fermanagh managed opening day victories over the weekend which Forester believes illustrates how tight Division Two is going to be this season.

"There won't be a lot between the teams in this division. Look at Fermanagh against Down.

"Kildare just up, Meath very strong and of course, there is Cork and Galway, so picking up any points is vital. So we'll take one point and build on it.

"We won our first two games last year and still ended up in a dogfight to stay in the division so winning those games doesn't guarantee you safety or anything else.

"That shows there is everything to play for in what will be a very tight division. Pick up a point, refocus straight away and try to prepare for the next game. That's all it is.

"We have Meath now. We drew with them last year in Owenbeg and played them in Championship so we have a good idea of who their key men are so hopefully we can come away with two points."

The hard-running Steelstown Brian Ogs half-back has been an ever present for Damian Barton's team this season, captaining his county for the first time in the McKenna Cup clash against Down in January.

Despite making his Derry debut in 2012 under John Brennan, Forester has only belatedly established himself in the team but found himself playing the 'old head' role in an Oak Leaf back six that contained five league debutants on Sunday.

That inexperience showed at times in the opening half against Colm Collins's side on Sunday but Derry recovered to put in a much improved second half display which Forester believes should have seen them push on for victory.

"(We) probably have to look at it as a point dropped. That's the bottom line," explained Forester.

"It's a home match and you need to be taking two points from your home games, it is as simple as that. Clare are a good team and we did a fair bit of research on them.

"We knew their midfield was going to be good and Gary Brennan was very good again.

"We knew they would be sharp in the forward line so we knew what to expect.

"When any team gets promoted, they come out all guns blazing and I don't think we coped with their running game overly well in that first half.

"We did much better in the second half but it was disappointing not to win. One point is better than none but you need to be winning you home games."

Was it vital not to lose?

"We have a really important game now next week against Meath. You don't want to leave yourself short going toward the last two or three games.

"You want to rack up the points as quickly as possibly. We won our first two games last year and in the end it proved crucial for us.

"We have not aspirations of merely fighting a relegation battle, we want to be aiming for promotion. We should have been winning a game like that today but Meath is going to be a tough away game next week."

Decision making was often Derry's downfall against the Banner County on Sunday.

After fighting back from Jamie Malone's second half goal, the Oak Leafers fashioned numerous openings but elected to shoot for goal or ignore better placed team-mates at crucial stages.

"It will be interesting to get a look at the video because it seemed like we created an awful lot of goal chances in the end and maybe had we tapped some of them over the bar it might have made the difference in a tight match like that," admitted Forester.

"Toward the end we had plenty of chances and it seemed like we were throwing the kitchen sink at them at times.

"Had a couple of those went over it may have changed things. Possibly Emmett (McGuckin) should have had a few more frees.

"His fielding was unreal and I felt he deserved maybe an extra free or two.

"We left him a bit isolated at times but some of his catching was phenomenal and we probably should have kicked it in to him more often as he was winning his individual battle.

"But we showed serious character. As disappointing as it was not to win the boys showed serious character to respond to that late point.

"It was unbelievable from James Kielt. Out on the sideline, it was a wonder point, but that is the sort of man he is.

"When we needed something, he stepped up to make sure we took a point from the game.

"It is only one point but we can build on it. We showed character in the way we kept fighting, kept battling until the end, throwing everything to get something."

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