Derry underdogs can do things the Down way says Damian Barton
DERRY’S players could learn from Down’s fearless giant-killers and set their minds to shocking Mayo tomorrow, says Oak Leaf manager Damian Barton.
Barton believes Derry will win in Castlebar, but the westerners – with three All-Ireland final appearances behind them in the past six seasons - are hot favourites.
While he doesn’t agree that the Mournemen “tore up” the pundits’ scripts by beating hot favourites Monaghan last Saturday, Barton does concede that their up-and-at-’em display has shown other underdogs what can be done.
“What Down did does inspire us to a degree,” he said.
“I don’t think they tore up the script. I was involved in Down football several years ago (as Burren manager) and I thought the standard of footballer was quite good – exceptional in a lot of cases.
“Some people might be shocked that these guys come to the fore – they might never have heard of Connaire Harrison before last weekend - but there are really good players in Down and tactically Down got it right.
“They adopted a very physical and aggressive style and I wouldn’t be critical of that – an awful lot of players could learn from it.”
Derry recovered from losing to Tyrone in the first round of Ulster to see off Waterford in relative comfort and make it into the hat for round two of the Qualifiers.
Mayo away from home was the toughest draw possible, but Barton says the pressure is all on his opposite number Stephen Rochford tomorrow.
“I certainly believe we’re going to win the game,” he said.
“It’s just about getting it right on the day and hopefully we’ll get it right.
“There’s no doubt they’ll be looking past us and on to the next round but they’re under pressure too. Their management is under as much pressure as I am and maybe they’re under more because of the higher level of expectation and their proven track record.
“This game is all about winning and losing and losing is devastating – it’s not something you want to experience that often, or have associated with Derry that often.”
Mayo have injury concerns over Aidan O’Shea and Lee Keegan but Barton expects O’Shea to feature. The Newbridge clubman will have a full squad to choose from – including skipper Enda Lynn - for what could be his last game as Derry manager.
“There are a few niggles but we should have all hands to the pump and everybody will be available for selection,” he said.
“Enda has made good progress. A hamstring injury is a very temperamental thing, it’s very hard to treat and to get a player back from it. But he’s not that far away and we’re hoping that if he doesn’t make the starting line-up he will feature at some stage.”
The Derry faithful are likely to be heavily outnumbered in Castlebar. The Oak Leaf diehards who travelled to Waterford were rewarded with a victory and Barton wants his players to give their fans “something to be proud of” tomorrow.
“We have a good squad of guys who get on very well together and I’m just hoping that they’ll fight for each other and fight for the cause of Derry football,” he said.
“We want to move to round three and we certainly got a really difficult draw. Both teams like to set up defensively and break quickly and we are really looking forward to it despite the fact that a very partisan crowd is going to really, really outnumber our support.
“Our support the last day in Waterford was brilliant and I think it was a big plus. Hopefully we’ll give our supporters that travel something to be proud of. A victory for any team is such a fillip for any team - for the players themselves but also for the county.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS WEEKEND
All-Ireland SFC Qualifying round 2A
Laois v Clare (Portlaoise, 3pm)
Donegal v Longford (Ballybofey, 5pm)
Mayo v Derry (Castlebar, 5pm)
Meath v Sligo (Navan, 6pm)
All-Ireland SHC round one
Offaly v Waterford (Tullamore, 3pm)
Tipperary v Westmeath (Thurles, 5pm)
Dublin v Laois (Parnell Park, 7pm)
Kilkenny v Limerick (Nowlan Park, 7pm)
Munster SFC final: Kerry v Cork (Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, 2pm)
Leinster SHC final: Galway v Wexford (Croke Park, 4pm)