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In The Irish News - Apr 25 1998: Derry tackle Offaly for National League final honours

"Anthony Tohill, if you had to buy a midfielder, would be the only midfielder in the country that I would try to buy," said Offaly manager Tommy Lyons
Andy Watters

DERRY meet Offaly in the National Football League final at Croke Park and Offaly manager Tommy Lyons was full of praise for the experienced Oak Leaf side.

“Derry are, and have been, a very, very good footballing team and I think pound for pound have some of the best footballers in the country at the present time, the likes of Joe Brolly, Henry Downey,

Joe Cassidy who I think is a wonderfully gifted player, and Anthony Tohill to name a few of them,” he said.

“Tohill, if you had to buy a midfielder, would be the only midfielder in the country that I would try to buy. I would like to see a great game of football at Croke Park this weekend.

“I think Derry and ourselves will produce it.”

Lyons is confident of tomorrow’s showdown producing a cracking match, of high intensity and high entertainment value. Offaly are out to impress.

He believes Derry will be aiming for nothing less themselves.

“I think we are in for a very fast, quick, entertaining game,” he said.

“Derry like to build up quickly from the back, as we can play a very fast short game, and work it long when we have to.

“The one thing the players have learned as a unit since the All-Ireland semi-final is to be more adaptable, to vary it, to try things out. Adaptability is the key, that’s what makes us difficult to play against now, and being in the league final is a big plus.

“It would be tremendous if we could win Offaly’s first National League title. That would be a great bonus before the Championship, which at the end of the day remains our top priority. I’m sure

Derry feel the same way about it.

“It would be very nice to win the league, but it’s the Championship we are all aiming for.”

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DOWN and Armagh’s third meeting of the nineties in the final of the Dr McKenna Cup tomorrow evening should be an edgy affair, coming only seven weeks before a possible Ulster championship first round clash.

The importance of Ulster’s second competition has become diluted in recent years, and while both sides will welcome the extra match practice, neither side is likely to give too much away.

Should Down beat Tyrone in the Ulster championship opener on May 17, just as they did in the McKenna Cup semi-final replay, then tomorrow’s finalists will be meeting at Clones on June 14.

Neither county will be unhappy to see the back of the experimental rules that have featured in this year’s campaign and, although both management teams tried their hand throughout, more settled formations should take to the field for the final with the championship looming ever closer.

Armagh are certainly the in-form side of the McKenna Cup, making their fourth appearance this decade, and in contests with the Mournemen honours are even at one apiece.

It is five years since Derry became the last team to win both the McKenna Cup and the Ulster championship in the same year.

The Orchard County, however, will be optimistic of their chances of coming out of Ulster should they lift some silverware this evening. They have contested the Ulster final on six out of the nine occasions they won the Dr McKenna Cup.

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THREE games to go in the Scottish Premier Division and the permutations are still endless.

Ifs and buts still dominate thinking about the destination of the title this season – unless you happen to be Wim Jansen or Walter Smith.

The Celtic and Rangers bosses will be telling their players to ignore the radio-toting crowds at Parkhead and Tynecastle this afternoon.

The message will be ‘concentrate on your own game and let the opposition worry about themselves’.

Whether that is possible as the most thrilling Scottish title race in recent years hurtles towards a conclusion remains to be seen.

The Celtic players will know that three wins from three games will see them crowned champions no matter what their city rivals manage from their remaining contests.

Walter Smith on the other hand must be hoping for help from Hibs (today), Dunfermline (next Sunday) or St Johnstone when they conclude Celtic’s programme at Parkhead.

But the added pressure for Rangers is that they can afford no further slips against Hearts today, Kilmarnock next week or Dundee United at season’s end

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