Kevin Madden: Derry may be broken beyond repair

Antrim, Armagh, Donegal, Down, Monaghan, and Tyrone can win through

Derry manager Mickey Harte checks the time.
Derry manager Mickey Harte checks the time against Armagh during the All Ireland Senior Championship match played at Celtic Park Derry on Sunday 2nd June 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY )

Myself and Maria were married 15 years ago back in the March of this year. As a wedding present all those years ago, we were given this beautiful huge John Rocha vase by the Glenullin chairman at the time, and top man, Martin Mullan.

From anniversaries, to birthdays, valentines and all special occasions in between, that vase has served some purpose. Until a few months ago, probably due to a drastic change in temperature, it spontaneously cracked in half, clean down the middle.

But with the aid of some spectacular glue I managed to put the vase back together, and short of a barely noticeable hairline fracture, it was as good as new, or so I thought. Until a few days ago - there it was once again split right down the middle in two equal pieces.

Some of commentary around Mickey Harte and Derry in recent weeks has been somewhat ridiculous. As they approach the Westmeath game this weekend, I think they will garner enough pride, resilience and unity to put a performance in to win.

But beyond that are they also broken?

The current Derry manager has been written off many times before and came back to prove the doubters wrong. But this time it feels different and as we know well, he is in a very different town.

Injuries to key players and a dip in form has doubled down on basic mistakes, a failure of some tactics, an overall dip in work-rate and a failure to follow the defensive plan. This is a must-win game.

I expect Derry will get over the line in Newry but just like the John Rocha, it feels like before long that big crack will appear again. There are some things that are beyond fixable and Derry looks to be another.

A draw or a win for Armagh against Galway would see them top group 1 and go straight through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Two sides on such an even keel, this is such a hard one to call. A tentative nod goes to Armagh who will be full of confidence after throwing the shackles off against Derry the last day.

In Group 3 you’d expect Donegal to see off Clare without too much trouble but Cork have the ball in their own court as a victory over Tyrone would see them top the group. I think the likely outcome here is a Tyrone victory and with three teams finishing on four points that would see the 1st, 2nd and third places decided by score difference.

In group 4 I think Monaghan will have enough to see off Meath to qualify but more than likely in third place.

Antrim v London Tailteann Cup Quarter Final at Corrigan Park in west Belfast
Antrims Paddy McBride pushed past Londons Stephen Doran. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

For all my criticisms of the new Sam Maguire format, I can only say positive things about the merits of the Tailteann Cup. For teams like Antrim, exposure to more championship games can only help a pathway of development, which creates an opportunity to play in Croke Park and a realistic chance of some silverware.

As we look ahead to the Tailteann Cup Quarter Finals this weekend you would probably have to say that home advantage slightly swings this tie in favour of the Ernemen.

Having beaten Fermanagh in the final group game last year, you can be rest assured Antrim will be heading to Brewster Park fully believing they are going to win. So with my Saffron hat on I predict that Antrim will come through this tie to make the last four.

The Down v Wicklow game also has a northern feel with Oisin McConville and Mark Doran pitting their wits against Conor Laverty and Marty Clarke. This game could be much closer than people think but it is hard to see past anything other than a win for the Mournemen.

On Saturday past I got to dust down the boots to play in an Over 40s charity match hosted in memory of local man and popular supermarket owner Paddy Fullan who passed away suddenly this time last year.

Paddy had strong connections to both the Erin’s Own, Cargin and Roger Casement’s, Portglenone clubs so it was only fitting that after a day of underage activity both masters teams would slog it out in a match organised in his memory.

The old Portglenone pitch was in mint condition which would have greatly pleased popular club groundsman Mickey Kelly, who was also very much in people’s thoughts, after passing away only a couple of months ago.

With a bumper crowd in attendance nostalgia was a-plenty as some great players from yesteryear got to showcase their age and demonstrate how time stands still for no man! Congratulations to all involved in organising such a brilliant day which raised a significant sum of money for the Air Ambulance NI.