Derry relish Mayo Qualifier challenge says assistant-manager Brian McGuckin
THE bigger they are, the harder they fall and Derry assistant-manager Brian McGuckin says the Oak Leaf players will relish the challenge of taking on Mayo in round two of the Qualifiers.
Derry will take the field at Castlebar on July 1 as rank underdogs against a Mayo outfit that lost All-Ireland finals in 2012, 2013 and last year and were semi-finalists in 2014 and 2015.
Damian Barton’s side were knocked out of the Ulster Championship by Tyrone but recovered sufficiently to see off Waterford last Saturday. Yesterday’s draw might have paired them with a lesser light, but McGuckin says the challenge of slaying a genuine giant will inspire the Derry players.
“It’s great to have such a challenge in the next round,” he said.
“It’ll give us great focus and it’s a game that we’re really looking forward to. “Obviously Mayo are one of the top three teams in the country, so it’s a fabulous challenge and we’ll go down there and give it absolutely everything we have.
“We had a fair idea of the teams we could meet and on the bus home from Waterford we talked through all the potential candidates and we couldn’t see any that would have been an easy tie.
“It’s going to be a huge ask for us but we’ll be as prepared as we possibly can be.”
Last year Fermanagh met Mayo at the same stage of the Qualifiers and went it at half-time leading 1-10 to 1-4. But their match-winning position was lost after Aidan O’Shea manufactured a penalty in the second half and the westerners survived.
“Galway have knocked Mayo out of the Connacht Championship in the last two years,” McGuckin pointed out.
“We went down to Galway in the League this year minus a lot of the boys who played at the weekend and for 60 minutes we were well in the game. We know we can compete against teams of that calibre – we just have to have the belief that we can go down and beat them.”
After blowing hot and cold in Division One this year, Mayo got past Sligo in Connacht but lost by a point against fierce rivals Galway in the Connacht semi-final.
“If we had met them a week after Galway beat them I would have said they were vulnerable,” McGuckin explained.
“But they’ve had three weeks to recover so I would fully expect Mayo to go into this game with all guns blazing, fully revitalised and raring to go. It’s going to be a huge challenge, we know that, but we genuinely believe that technically we have a group of footballers as good as any county. We just have to get them all playing to the peak of their powers together – when we do that we’re a match for anybody.
“We have shown that in fits and starts during the year, we just need to do it more consistently.”
Meanwhile, county captain Enda Lynn played no part in the win in Waterford after he aggravated a hamstring injury playing for his club Greenlough against Slaughtneil last week.
The Ulster inter-pro star incurred the wrath of manager Barton, but McGuckin expects him to play some part against Mayo.
“It was a bit of a setback Enda not being available for Waterford but he’s doing everything in his power to be fit for Mayo and I would like to think that he’ll be available for some playing time against them,” he said.
“Any healing that had occurred was undone but it’s well within his capability to be back and fit and able to offer something down in Castlebar.”
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2A
Meath v Sligo (Pairc Tailteann)
Mayo v Derry (MacHale Park)
Laois v Clare (Portlaoise)
Donegal v Longford (Donegal venue)