GAA Football

Derry set to win first game in Glen for a decade

Ryan Bell makes his return to the Derry squad for tomorrow's clash with Wicklow, their first game at Watty Graham Park since 2009.

Allianz Football League Division Four: Derry v Wicklow (tomorrow, 2pm, Glen)

DERRY footballers continue their tour of the county's old spiritual homes when they welcome Wicklow to a rejuvenated Watty Graham Park tomorrow.

Glen's ground at the bottom of the Glenshane Pass has had floodlights installed recently and a new tarmac job done on the car park just this week, in perfect time for Derry's first league game at the ground since Galway won there a decade ago.

They lost that day but still went on to reach one their second consecutive Division One final, and in that sense the current circumstances couldn't be further removed.

Victory tomorrow would be another step towards a return to Croke Park, except as the Saturday evening curtain-raiser rather the Sunday showpiece.

Division Four appears to be assuming its traditional shape at this stage, and by the end of tomorrow evening there could well be considerable daylight between Derry, Leitrim and the rest.

Wins for those two against third-placed Wicklow and fourth-placed Limerick respectively would create a four-point buffer for the pair of them at the top and ease any sense of pressure on what look like the best two sides in the division.

Derry will have to make do without Enda Lynn, who only came on late in the win over Waterford two weeks ago and is set to be sidelined for at least another fortnight now with a hamstring injury.

They're boosted otherwise by the return of Ryan Bell, who will take his place in the subs as he makes his return from an ankle injury suffered in the McKenna Cup win over Fermanagh in the first week of January.

Jason Rocks and Conor McAtamney were sent off within a minute of each other down in Fraher Field but both were on second yellow cards so they're available for tomorrow's game.

Shane McGuigan and Niall Toner are likely to continue up top, with their Sigerson campaign now over following St Mary's bitter final defeat by UCC in midweek.

Christopher Bradley's been in good form on his return to inter-county football, but they've yet to really find their rhythm as an attacking force and thus haven't enjoyed the comfort some might have expected in the bottom tier.

They were only a point up and two men down heading into the final few minutes against Waterford, but if anything it only underlined the extra bit of quality they have compared to the rest of the division that they were able to pull away and win by seven.

Wicklow have previous for wrecking promotion hopes, when their gutsy display in Corrigan Park last year earned them a draw that effectively dislodged Antrim from the race.

John Evans' side will show just one change from their 2-8 to 1-6 win over Limerick, with Darren Hayden returning at wing-forward in place of Mark Fitzsimons.

That was another backs-against-the-walls display, given that they looked in bother just after half-time when Limerick netted to level and had a huge wind behind them. But they worked goals for Chris O'Brien and Theo Smyth that kept their momentum going.

Chris O'Brien's forced his way into the attack of recent weeks but otherwise, Evans is trying to build a consistent team. His starting back nine – with the excellent Mark Jackson in goals – has been unchanged since the beginning of the League.

They'll do their best to make it tough for Derry, but they won't have the attacking arsenal to go the distance. The Oak Leafers to pull clear and make a winning return to Glen.


Derry: TBA

Wicklow: M Jackson; O Manning, R O'Brien, J Snell; D Devereux, S Mooney, D Fitzgerald; P O'Toole, D Healy; D Hayden, M Kenny, T Smith; C O'Brien, S Duffy, P O'Connor

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