Derry won't throw in the towel this time vows Brian McGuckin
DERRY assistant manager Brian McGuckin has warned Tyrone there will be no repeat of the comfort with which they took victory in Celtic Park last year when the sides meet in just over two weeks’ time.
The Red Hands claimed a first ever win at the city venue last May with an 11-point win, where first half goals from Ronan O’Neill (two) and Peter Harte ensured a cruise to the finish line for Mickey Harte’s side.
That set Tyrone on the road to a first Ulster title in six years and despite a poor finish to their National League campaign this spring, they remain favourites to retain the Anglo Celt Cup.
Derry recovered last summer to come within 90 seconds of reaching an All-Ireland quarter-final but this has been a difficult campaign so far, with relegation from Division Two prompting predictions of a similar margin of victory for Tyrone on May 28.
McGuckin, a native of Edendork but now resident in the family stronghold of Ballinderry on the Oak Leaf side of the border, admits Derry were pushed around much too easily last year and vowed that the same thing would not happen again.
“We were bullied in our own back yard. Tyrone came up and they bullied Derry in Celtic Park. You would have thought it was Tyrone’s home fixture.
“We threw in the towel far too early. That won’t happen this year, I can guarantee you that.
“We’ll be as ready for Tyrone as we can be and we believe we’re in a better position this year.
“Last year’s game, in a way we can take the positives and learn a lot from it, and we hope it will be a different outcome this year.”
Derry haven’t beaten their Sperrin rivals since a one-point win in a National League game back in February 2011, and have been beaten in seven of the last nine meetings – the other two ending in draws.
Neither is coming at the game from a position of relative strength but despite their slack finish, Tyrone were still the side playing Division One football in the spring, and who survived it.
McGuckin blew away any suggestions that three defeats on the spin for their neighbours left Tyrone in a position to be shot at as they begin the defence of their provincial title.
“We didn’t have the most successful league campaign but championship football is a different ball game and we’re not silly enough to think Tyrone will be coming in vulnerable because they lost a couple of league games at the tail end.
“They’re still a potent outfit, still one of the top three or four teams in the country and we know our task is huge. But it’s a new year and a new competition, and we’re going in with optimism.
“We’re not feeling like we’re lambs to the slaughter; we genuinely believe that we’re going into this game with a puncher’s chance.”
Oisin Duffy and Niall Toner have both opted off the panel in recent weeks as a result of long-term injuries from which neither has recovered sufficiently.
Duffy has only been able to come in off the bench for his club Foreglen of the last couple of weekends, while Toner isn’t expected to play any football for another eight weeks at least.
Ciaran McFaul, however, has been back in the Glen side and getting regular game time after his hand injury, and will be fully fit for the Celtic Park clash.
The Oak Leaf squad all came through their final round of club league games before the Tyrone game at the weekend unscathed.
The Irish News understands that Tyrone midfielder Declan McClure’s knee injury, which was suffered at county training on Saturday morning, will definitely rule him out of the May 28 clash.