Final dead rubber to end Derry campaign as eyes turn towards summer
Allianz National Football League Division Four: Derry v Wexford (today, 4pm, Bellaghy)
IT feels like an eternity since Derry sealed their promotion back up to Division Three, and this afternoon they see out the League programme with a final dead rubber against Wexford in Bellaghy.
The Oak Leafers have known since the start of the month that they will face Leitrim in next Saturday’s Division Four final but, to their credit, they have managed to maintain their 100 per cent record in the interim.
And while defeating Terry Hyland’s men in Croke Park next week would be welcome, Derry eyes have surely long since turned towards the May 12 showdown with neighbours Tyrone in Omagh.
Competing in the bottom tier is hardly the ideal preparation to be heading into a clash with last year’s All-Ireland finalists. However, it cannot be underestimated how important continuity of selection through the spring could be for Damian McErlain by the time that date rolls around.
The availability of the Slaughtneil players from the off has been a huge factor in Derry cruising to promotion. In three of previous four National League campaigns, the Oak Leafs were largely without their Emmett’s contingent due to All-Ireland Club commitments, and they have played a major part thus far.
Eamon McGill, Michael McEvoy, Jason Rocks and Eoghan Concannon are among the newer faces on the panel to have impressed in the past few months, while the likes of Emmett Bradley and Enda Lynn – both likely starters against Tyrone in six weeks – drifting in and out of the side as McErlain looks at his options.
Wexford have no League final to look forward to but they will aim to finish the League on a high, having won their last two games against Wicklow and Limerick after a shock humbling at the hands of Waterford.
Jonathan Bealin scored five points against the Treatymen while Conor Devitt and Eoghan Nolan landed seven between them last weekend, and now their focus also begins to turn to a May 12 Leinster Championship date with Louth.
Former Wee County manager Colin Kelly – currently managing St Kevin’s in Louth - has come on board to help the Yellowbellies, with a quarter-final clash against All-Ireland champions Dublin the prize on offer for the winners.
Derry: B McKinless; S F Quinn, C Mulholland, P McNeill; P Coney, E McGill, N Keenan; R Dougan, C McAtamney; C Doherty, E Lynn, P Cassidy; B Heron, R Bell, N Toner