GAA Football

Derry boosted by return of key quartet as they take on Cork in Allianz Football League Division Two

Mark Lynch is likely to see some game time for Derry this Sunday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Cahair O'Kane

Allianz National Football League Division Two: Derry v Cork (tomorrow, 1pm, Celtic Park)

CHRISSY McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Mark Lynch and Danny Heavron all return to the Derry squad ahead of tomorrow’s crunch clash with Cork.

Slaughtneil pair McKaigue and Rogers came straight back into the squad following their All-Ireland club football final defeat by Dr Crokes last Friday.

They are joined by potential debutant Padraig Cassidy, whose superb form for the club throughout their run to the St Patrick’s Day decider had him earmarked for a call-up from early on.

Karl McKaigue is on holiday and will instead return ahead of the final-day clash with Fermanagh, and there are likely to be further call-ups from Mickey Moran’s squad over the coming days.

Lynch and Heavron, meanwhile, are back in the matchday squad after recovering from their respective injuries and should see some game time.

Former skipper Lynch suffered a knee injury in the opening day draw with Clare that has kept him out for six weeks, and the Oak Leaf talisman’s return is a huge boost for Damian Barton.

As is the addition of Heavron to the squad for the first time this year. The Magherafelt man had briefly opted off the panel before making a u-turn early in the year, but he has been unavailable because of injury since.

With two points a more critical need than never for the bottom-of-the-pile Oak Leafers, coach Brian McGuckin says that the sight of those experienced faces back on the training pitch at Owenbeg has given the squad a lift.

“There’s optimism. These boys have been back in training this week and it’s really lifted the spirits of everybody, and provided us with a wee bit more depth.”

With just one win to their name, Derry are well aware of the need to take at least three points from their final two outings against equally threatened Cork and Fermanagh.

Six points and a stronger points difference than Armagh kept them up last year, but that is a luxury they look unlikely to have this time around.

Only Offaly, who lie bottom of Division Three and conceded 6-22 in one game to Armagh, have a worse defensive record than Derry this season.

The bare reality of the scoreline from last weekend’s loss in Galway, where Derry conceded 5-15, was harsh in light of the fact that the visitors to Tuam actually led just shy of the hour mark before going down by nine points.

“It was bitterly disappointing. We played some tremendous football. I know the scoreline certainly doesn’t do us any favours,” said McGuckin.

“Galway scored 3-4 in the last 7 or 8 minutes, when we were down to 14 men and had to come out and chase the game.

“They were able to bring players of the calibre of [Shane] Walsh and [Finian] Hanley off the bench, just to provide them with extra quality and pace.

“But we know exactly where we are. We’re in a position where we know if we win our last two games, we’ll retain our Division Two status.”

Cork came down as favourites from promotion but their performances have been distinctly underwhelming. Throwing away a nine-point lead in the draw with Meath last weekend leaves them frantically trying to keep their head above water.

Brian O’Driscoll suffered a dislocated shoulder in training during the week that will sideline him for at least a month, while Brian Hurley’s well-documented hamstring troubles are another attacking blow.

A glance at the Cork teamsheet leaves you wondering how they’ve found themselves in this predicament. But Derry will fancy their returning Slaughtneil defensive duo to shackle Colm O’Neill (who hit 0-9 last weekend) and Paul Kerrigan.

If they can manage that, then it could be a precious two points to set up a potential last-day shootout with Fermanagh.

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