Brennan backs his defenders

DERRY manager John Brennan claims he has ‘no worries’ over his side’s defending after watching them secure a Dr. McKenna Cup final spot against either Tyrone or Cavan on Saturday, February 12th.

MICHAEL WILSON report

Despite four score-laden wins from four, some critics have pointed to opposition tallies as a source of concern but the Lavey man says nothing could be further from the truth.

“I do not have any worries about our half-back or full-back line,” explained Brennan.

“The defence did everything we asked of it. There have been questions about our defence but we are building and there is a long, long way to go. We have won some matches and we are in the McKenna Cup final which is good but some of these fellas are just coming through and maybe the bar is set a bit high in some people’s expectations. “They are gradually getting there and if you look at the stats, the graph is certainly going the right way. It may not be as steep as people might expect but I’m happy.

“I have said before, Kevin McCloy is coming back. The likes of Charlie Kielt and boys like that are there to bolster the defence as well. Gerard O’Kane has also done fantastically in the last few games, filling in at full-back. He doesn’t like it, naturally enough, but he is an exceptional footballer and a great talent. He does as you ask him to do and has done admirably over the last few games.”

The Derry manager has admitted the McKenna final does not top his list of concerns with the league due to start at Celtic Park on Sunday against Tyrone. He was, however, full of praise for the competition and the platform it has given his players.

“There are only eight of last year’s 30 players from the McKenna Cup on this year’s panel. People see the familiar faces of Paddy Bradley and Gerard O’Kane, but there are only eight. Seven of tonight’s squad came through the development squad. You must realise we have ten players that we cannot touch as yet because they’re McKenna Cup tied with their universities. Enda Muldoon and these fellas have to come back yet and there’s room for improvement.

“Next week, it’ll not be easy selecting a team, but we’ll try and get it right. Hopefully it works out We have a big game here against Tyrone, very, very big. The league is the be all and end all now. The performance against Antrim was a vast improvement from last week and the week before. No disrespect to other opposition but Antrim really put it up to us.

“One of the best managers, Mickey Harte, has always sang the praises of the McKenna Cup and I think it is brilliant preparation. What other preparation do we have? A lot of the players haven’t played serious football since August last year and we go out and play four matches in what, 14 days. I think it has to be ‘hats off’ to those fellas. They are good players and I just hope I can help them. That’s what I’m here for, to help them advance,” he added.