Derry footballers lose key duo to travel plans
DERRY’S hopes of avoiding a scrap at the foot of Division Three have been dealt a blow with the news that two key players have left the panel as they plan to travel to America this summer.
Young star corner-back Niall Keenan and the versatile Ciaran McFaul will both miss the rest of the Oak Leafers’ National League campaign as well as any championship run.
Both men are set to jet off separately to the States during the two-month break in the reformed Derry club leagues, which begins on May 6 and runs until July 15, though both are expected to be home in time for club championship.
While the pair will remain in the country until the end of the National League, it was agreed by all parties to make the break now as they would not be available for championship.
Derry manager Damian McErlain told The Irish News that the door would remain open to them and that both players went with his blessing.
“We have known for a period of time that both Niall and Ciaran had plans to travel in 2018.
“Obviously it was disappointing to the management and players, however, we have to respect the wishes of Niall and Ciaran. They both would be a loss to any team in the country.
"Players make decisions at different stages in their lives and we have to accept that challenging as that might be.
"Players travelling and taking time away is not unique to Derry football. It's part of life.
"Given the success of Slaughtneil we have had to manage the panel a particular way and after discussion with the two players we have decided this is the best decision for them, and Derry football at this stage.
"Niall and Ciaran are two honest, hard-working and capable footballers. They have been loyal servants to club and county for many years.
"We look forward to welcoming them back after their travels so they can be a part of what we are trying to achieve with the Derry senior football team in the coming years."
Keenan was arguably McErlain’s key lieutenant in his first two years in charge of the minors, with the Castledawson man designated a number of key man-marking roles.
He stepped effortlessly into the senior side last year under Damian Barton and despite the team’s struggles, Keenan – a nephew of former county chairman John – impressed, not least in putting the shackles on eventual Footballer of the Year Andy Moran during Derry’s qualifier defeat in Mayo.
McFaul made his senior debut under Brian McIver in 2013 and has grown to become an important regular in the team since.
He had featured in 14 of Derry’s 17 championship games since he made his debut against Sligo in a qualifier during his debut season, having missed the other three because of injury.
Young Swatragh midfielder Patrick Kearney, who was also part of McErlain’s first Ulster minor winning team in 2015, has also opted out of the squad,
McErlain says he will draft in reinforcements in the coming days.
His hand has been bare in early season due to the absence of Slaughtneil's six-man contingent.
The Emmet’s sextet unavailable until at least the end of this month, and would most likely miss the whole National League if the club qualifies for the All-Ireland football final.
Mickey Moran’s side play Nemo Rangers on Saturday week, February 24, though the club's dream of a hurling title died on Saturday past when they were beaten by Munster champions Na Piarsaigh.
Dual players Chrissy and Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Shane McGuigan and Paul McNeill, as well as single-code midfielder Padraig Cassidy, are all due to come in at the conclusion of Slaughtneil’s football campaign.
Derry are due to face Offaly in a refixed game this weekend as they look for a first win of the National League following defeats by Westmeath and Longford.