DERRY manager Brian McIver has stated the door remains open for players to force their way into the Derry Senior panel despite making sweeping changes in his Dr. McKenna Cup panel this week.
Michael Wilson reports
The new Oak Leaf boss wasted no time in revamping his squad with 10 new faces among what is an experimental 26 man panel that begins its competition with a testing trip to Healy Park to face holders Tyrone on January 6th.
No less than 11 players who were in John Brennan’s 2012 panel have been omitted including Steelstown half back Neil Forester, Claudy forward Marty Donaghy, Craigbane forward Lee Moore and established names such as Barry Gillis, Joe Diver, Michael Bateson, Caolan O’Boyle and Michael Drumm as McIver turns his attention to youth.
Three of the new faces were part of last year’s minor squad which McIver worked closely with alongside his son, Paul. Bellaghy corner-back Declan Brown and Ballinderry’s Ryan Bell join Swatragh midfielder Conor McAtamney in a squad that welcomes back Raymond Wilkinson, Coilin Devlin, Declan Bell and Aidan McAlynn. Banagher’s Micheal Anderson has also been rewarded for a superb end to the season.
With a number of other players with their Universities and players like Gerard O’Kane and Paddy Bradley on the injured list, the Derry manager said he wanted to use the McKenna campaign to look at as many players as possible.
“That’s the nature of a senior county panel, it’s never set in stone as such,” explained the Derry manager.
“With injuries and things like that you always have to be ready to change. The players who have been named will get their chance but the door is never shut. It’s up to those in the panel now to stay there and up to others to force their way in.
“What you want from football in January is to have a look at as many players as possible and get as many players as much game time as you can. The University boys will get plenty of football and we will be trying to get a look at as many players as we can.
“We went through the process of the trials and then had to consider things like player unavailability, either through injury or players that will be with the universities, and we made our decision from there.”
McIver brings in two new goalkeepers, including Glenullin’s Eoin NcNicholl who was between the sticks when the Oak Leaf minors lifted the 2002 All Ireland minor title. He is joined by Loup keeper Thomas Mallon whose brother Gavin is also named. The youth will be supplemented by a number of recognised faces like Patsy Bradley, Sean Leo and Barry McGoldrick, Dermot McBride and Charlie Kielt.
The Derry management team have been working with the players since they returned to training on November 15th and McIver admits the changes to the squad training rules has suited Derry as they build toward the National League opener against Galway on February 3rd.
“Those changes have made a big difference, especially to a new management team like ourselves. It gives you a chance to get a look at things early and provides more chance for preparation. It is still early days but we will be getting down to the real hard work after Christmas. You want to do well in every competition you play in but our priority is to get a look at players. Our focus is on February 3rd,” he added.
Cup Panel 2013
Eoin McNicholl (Glenullin); Declan Brown (Bellaghy); Phillip Bradley (Ballinascreen); Micháel Anderson (Banagher); Aidan McAlynn (Loup); Mark Lynch (Banagher); Conor McAtamney (Swatragh); Patsy Bradley (Slaughtneil); P.J. McCloskey (Banagher); Declan Mullan (Eoghan Rua); Ryan Bell (Ballinderry); Sean Leo McGoldrick (Eoghan Rua); Lee Kennedy (Kilrea); Eoin Bradley (Glenullin); Raymond Wilkinson (Ballinderry); Thomas Mallon (Loup); Joe Morgan (Kilrea); Dermot McBride (Ballinascreen); Brian McCallion (Greenlough); Charlie Kielt (Kilrea); Enda Lynn (Greenlough); Gavin Mallon (Loup); Coilin Devlin (Ballinderry); Barry McGoldrick (Eoghan Rua); Blain Gormley (Craigbane); John McCamley (Glen).