MARTIN DONAGHY has promised to make up for lost time at inter-county level and make an impact in the fortunes of Derry’s National League promotion chase, the Claudy man relishing the thought of lining up against Donegal under the lights of Celtic Park tomorrow night. (Throw-in 7.30 p.m.)
SIMON COLLINS reports
The John Mitchell’s half-forward may not yet be a household name having been out of the reckoning for the past five seasons, but at 28 years of age, he believes he still has plenty to offer and following recent performances for the ‘Oak Leafers,’ who can argue?
A dramatic return to form for both club and county, including a superb showing in the Mc-Kenna Cup Final, have helped cement his place in John Brennan’s panel of late.
And having proved an excellent outlet on the half-forward line during his first league start since 2006, contributing 0-02 in the victory over Sligo at Markiewicz Park last Sunday, the industrious Donaghy will once again be called upon for tomorrow night’s promotion battle.
“It’s good to be back,” said Donaghy. “I’ve been out of the loop for far too long and I’ve put a lot of hard work in, trained hard and, thankfully, John Brennan has come in and given me another chance.
“My brother Gavin was always doing well in the county squad and I felt it was time for me to give it another go.
“I’ve played in the League before but I’ve never wanted it as much as I do this year. I’m determined to make up for lost time. I’m only 28 so I’m not old and I think I’ve got a lot more to offer.”
Having got to know Donegal boss, Jim McGuinness from his time playing with Jordanstown, Donaghy knows only too well that the Tir Chonnaill men will be well drilled and prove a difficult test.
“It’s another derby match so they’re always big games. Donegal’s going well at the minute. There’s two new managers on board which makes it interesting. I know Jim McGuinness from my Jordanstown days and he’s a winner. But we’ve beaten Antrim and Tyrone already this season and we’re confident we can beat Donegal.”
In the absence of the prolific Eoin Bradley, who was sent off against Sligo, his brother Paddy will carry the burden in the scoring stakes, but Donaghy, who has the ability to chip in with points himself, warns that Donegal would be foolish to single any individual out.
“I enjoy getting in on the scoring, I was always a corner forward but John wants me to do more of a working role so that’s my job.
“With big Enda (Muldoon) in alongside me, hopefully that’ll give me a chance to get forward and chip in with a couple of points.
“Paddy always gets six or seven points in a game, he’s different class but we have a lot of focal points and it should be a good game. Celtic Park’s a great pitch and lets hope we get the right result.”
A place in the Division Two League Final and even more importantly, one of the two promotion berths are very much up for grabs tomorrow night with both Donegal and Derry sitting pretty at the top end of the League table.
So there’s more than just bragging rights to play for, the winners almost certainly - with just two games remaining - looking at one of the two top of the table positions.
Defeat will not necessary be the end of the road for either team tomorrow night either, but it will make it a little more difficult.
Donegal take an unbeaten four game run to Celtic Park, following wins over Tyrone and Meath and draws with Sligo and Kildare.
Derry, too, have been motoring along nicely and have three wins - Tyrone, Kildare and Sligo - from their four games. The only blemish on the ‘Oak Leafers’ season, under the stewardship of Brennan, was a heavy and surprise home defeat to Laois.
The two counties are on equal points (six) to table toppers Laois, who suffered their first reversal on Sunday last to neighbours Kildare in Newbridge. That result has really opened up the league and the race for promotion.
And it is for that reason that both managers will surely be going all out for the victory.
Brennan will have to find a replacement for the suspended Eoin Bradley and the injured Conleth Gilligan with Damien Mullan likely to be introduced to the starting line-up.