DERRY GAA: League remains priority ahead of Tyrone clash

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Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye)

( Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye)

Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup Final: Derry v Tyrone (Saturday, Newry, 7pm)

Selector Hugh McGrath claims Derry’s priority remains the National League opener with Clare in Celtic Park despite the Oak Leafers facing Tyrone in the McKenna Cup final in Pairc Esler, Newry on Saturday.

Players can get hurt in training or in a challenge match, you can only go with what you have and for us that’s Tyrone on Saturday night. It’s an opportunity to prepare for the main focus which is Clare next week in Celtic Park.

Derry Selector Hugh McGrath

Six under 21s will be in the starting line-up for Damian Barton’s team with McGrath insisting they have to treat the final as simply another chance to fine tune ahead of the Divsion Two opener.

“It would be nice to win as there are not that many trophies handed out at county level every year but for us the priority remains our league campaign. That gives you the momentum to carry into the championship,” explained McGrath.

“We have been very clear about what the McKenna Cup was for us this year. It has been about blooding new players, getting them used to the county game and trying to get them into a system of play and it has been excellent for that so far.

“Hopefully Saturday night is another opportunity to fine tune that ahead of Clare the following week.”

Derry have to go back to 2011 for their last victory over Mickey Harte’s team but despite the lure of silverware on Saturday, McGrath stressed performance and avoiding injury was the key factor

“It is good to get competitive games right up until the start of the league,” he added, “We would have been playing a game any way this weekend so the guaranteed competitiveness of a final is a positive for us.

“Now, what we don’t want is a repeat of last year when we lost key players but you can’t tell players to go out and taper what they are doing, you have to play the game that is in front of you.

“Players can get hurt in training or in a challenge match, you can only go with what you have and for us that’s Tyrone on Saturday night. It’s an opportunity to prepare for the main focus which is Clare next week in Celtic Park.