Derry must see off Royals to maintain championship charge
Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Championship: Derry v Meath (tomorrow, Swatragh, 2pm)
IF Derry are to have any aspirations of getting to Croke Park this year, they will need to get off to a good start in the championship by reversing a defeat to Meath on the opening day of National League Division Two back in February.
For periods of that game, Derry had looked capable of winning, but once Meath went ahead, the visitors found it hard to get into any sort of scoring form.
The Oak Leaf of course are much changed from that opener that had forced them to field without players from either Slaughtneil or Eoghan Rua, both of whom were involved in All-Ireland club semi-finals.
It was also manager Martin Coulter's first game in charge. The former Down and Ulster hurler has had a little more time to look at his players since then and, if their performance last month against his native county is anything to go by, they are responding well to his training regime.
Despite having to field without the experienced Aoife Ní Chaiside (on holiday) and a couple of others on the injury list, Derry took Down to the last seconds of extra time before a goal from Paula O'Hagan stopped them.
Tactically they looked well set up to get a result, but probably lacked another forward who could break the line and get that extra score or two to take them over the line. But it was still an encouraging performance.
Meath is one of those teams that can be hard to put away as Antrim and Down both found out in recent meetings. Both the Ulster sides managed to beat them, but they needed to keep on the heat right throughout the game. Antrim seemed to blitz them in a first half in Inniskeen, but were then hanging on for a result in the minutes running into the final whistle.
Meath had been able to use their experience playing in the top flight for three or four years to keep them in games.
Derry though have a number of players also with senior championship experience and their leadership will be crucial in how the team finishes out close games like this one.