Doherty and O’Kane expected to be fit enough for All-Ireland Qualifier First Round game

Fergal Doherty (above) and Gerard O'Kane are both winning the race to be fit for Derry's All Ireland Qualifyer.

Fergal Doherty (above) and Gerard O'Kane are both winning the race to be fit for Derry's All Ireland Qualifyer.

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Derry manager Brian McIver is confident that Fergal Doherty and Gerard O’Kane will both have recovered from injury in time to line out in the county’s All-Ireland Qualifier First Round game.

Given the relative youthfulness the Derry squad, Doherty and O’Kane bring vital experience and nous to the team and the news that both players are on the road to recovery is a substantial boost ahead of tomorrow morning’s first round draw. Midfielder, Doherty suffered a back spasm which forced his withdrawal in the early stages of Derry’s Ulster Championship quarter-final defeat by Donegal while half-back O’Kane had to be carried off after sustaining ankle ligament damage during Glenullin’s loss to Dungiven in the All-County Football league last Sunday.

But Oak Leaf team boss McIver is hopeful that the injured duo, both former county captains, will be fit for action when Derry take the field again in the qualifiers on Saturday June 21.

“Fergal took a back spasm during the Donegal game but it’s a problem he has experienced in the past so he knows exactly how to manage it. It’s one of those that doesn’t really require treatment just a bit of rest. It’s already improving and I’d be very optimistic that he’ll be ready for the qualifier,” he said.

Similarly the manager expects O’Kane to be togged out in a fortnight’s time.

“When you hear a player has been carried off you always fear the worst but it looks like Gerard sustained a bit of a sprained ankle. It doesn’t look like the injury is too serious and as with Fergal I’m hopeful that he’ll be ready for the 21st,” he said.

With the structure of the first round draw having been altered this year Derry will be in the pot with seven other teams – Fermanagh, Limerick, London, Offaly and Wicklow and the losers from last night’s game Leinster Championship quarter-final between Wexford and Laois and this afternoon’s meeting of Dublin and Laois at Croke Park. McIver’s only real preference when the draw is made at head-quarters on Monday morning will be to see his team to secure a home fixture.

“With a draw like this there’s no point in trying to analyse who you might get. First round qualifiers are notoriously tricky so we’ll have to make sure we are properly prepared whoever emerges from the hat. Obviously in terms of logistic and preparations it would be great to be drawn at home and have a home crowd behind us but we’ll just have to take whatever comes our way. We’ve had time now to digest the disappointment of the Donegal result, and the players have been in action with their clubs which will have helped them clear their heads. Now we are ready to refocus on whatever the draw throws at us on Monday,” he said.