GAA Football

Derry have the firepower to see off Sligo and secure Division Three survival

Experienced forward James Kielt is expected to return for Derry in their final Division Three game against Sligo tomorrow. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League Division Three: Sligo v Derry (tomorrow, 3pm, Markievicz Park)

A WIN would guarantee safety for either Sligo or Derry tomorrow, although the result at Markievicz Park could be rendered redundant unless Offaly pull off a surprise victory over promotion-chasing Westmeath.

The Faithful currently sit second from bottom on three points, above already-doomed Wexford, and travel to Westmeath in hope rather than expectation as the Lake County still have a chance of appearing in next week’s Division Three final.

Neither Sligo or Derry – for whom a draw would do - can afford to be wondering what is happening 130 miles away, however, as both have it within their gift to end any lingering fears of the drop.

Following four defeats from five, the Oak Leafs had looked on course for a third straight relegation, having played Division One football in 2015 before twice dropping down since.

Without the Slaughtneil contingent for most of those games, and with new blood from his successful minor teams still bedding in at senior level, Damian McErlain was never in any doubt about the task that lay before Derry.

A much-needed victory over Offaly was followed by battling performances against Fermanagh and Armagh, who sealed their own promotion back to Division Two last weekend.

That improvement carried them to a second win of the campaign against Wexford and leaves their fate in their own hands heading into the final weekend.

And despite recording a nine-point win over the Yellowbellies, McErlain cut a frustrated figure when his players - who had looked solid and organised against their Ulster rivals – displayed some poor decision-making and kamikaze defending.

“In patches we played really well and in patches we were really good going forward but there were lapses in decision-making that led to the three goals we conceded,” he said.

“That has annoyed me a bit but again, 2-20 is good scoring and no-one has done that to Wexford in the League to date, so it gives us a bit of optimism in that sense, though we have still plenty to sort out.

“We didn’t press out far enough and let them get shots in. That’s another area we will look at. We shouldn’t have conceded as much as we did today. That’s obvious.

“There is loads to work on but that is key for us.”

And they had more time to iron out those mistakes than Sligo after the Yeatsmen played out a dour 0-8 apiece draw with Offaly on Monday, with Tyrone native Cathal Corey keen to avoid the drop in his first year in charge.

They have already lost twice to Ulster opposition this year, and Derry’s hopes of making that a hat-trick have been boosted by the return of James Kielt, Michael Bateson, Liam McGoldrick and Jack Doherty.

Slaughtneil midfielder Padraig Cassidy was superb against Wexford, driving forward from a deeper position than he would normally be found in club colours, while Conor McAtamney led by example, finishing with six from play.

Indeed, from an attacking point of view there was little Derry did wrong – if they can cut out the sloppy mistakes that blighted last week’s performance they should have the firepower to seal their own safety tomorrow.

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