DERRY manager Brian McIver admitted he was happy to have a ‘selection headache’ after a number of young players did their chances of making the National League panel no harm with some promising performances in the McKenna Cup.
Michael Wilson reports
Ciaran McFaul, Danny Heavron, Kevin Farren, Conor McAtamney and Carlus McWilliams have all come to the fore in games against Tyrone, Jordanstown and Antrim and the Derry manager - who will also welcome back his university players - must now decide if they are ready for the rigours of Division Two which starts with a testing trip to Galway.
“That is definitely the aim (to create competition for places),” explained the Ballinderry man. “We have a lot of work to do before February 3rd when we start against hot favourites Galway in their own back yard. Galway will big favourites to get promoted and that is a really big test but the other side of it is we’ve shown (against Antrim) the battling quality and willingness to work for each other. There are a lot of young players who have come in and they don’t look out of place which is great.”
So will it be difficult to reduce his panel down for the 20-25 players he will need for the League?
“I would rather be in that position than having no choice and to be honest it is great. Fair play to each of the boys, they battled for each other and that’s as big a factor as anything else in football.”
Derry missed out on qualification on Wednesday night after the draw against Frank Dawson’s team during 70 minutes in which McIver saw the best and the worst of his team.
“We knew Antrim were coming with a fairly experienced side and we wanted to give as many players a start in the McKenna Cup as possible so we had a couple of changes again. To be honest I thought we started well and at 0-5 to 0-2 were well in control but if you give away ball at this level you will be punished.
“Maybe it was early season ‘rustiness’ but I thought we were very careless in terms of possession; men giving passes and not even looking where the pass was going. I thought at 0-5 to 0-2 our attitude stank but once the pressure was on and they had to dig deep they did exactly that and that’s as good as you get at this time of year.”
Alongside the emergence of the new faces, Mark Lynch’s produced another first class showing in the centre-half back role he is making his own.
“Mark Lynch, well, I praised him there when the game was in the melting pot. He won a ball along the stand and we got a score out of it, it was absolutely vital. That’s the sort of tackling and hard work you need right across the board. To be fair to all the lads in that spell they really battled.
“We probably needed that bit of momentum going forward and the players coming on in the second half did that. Daniel Heavron’s use of the ball was absolutely top class and Gerard O’Kane gives you that bit drive and pace. That certainly helped as did Sean Leo (McGoldrick) coming in and we started to get a bit of a grip with Patsy (Bradley) and P. J. (McCloskey) at midfield for a good spell. I thought we worked some very good scores in that 25 minute period.
“It was a stonewall penalty (at the end). The ball was caught, Ryan Bell, well, two men just lay on him, there was no question of it, Listen, it’s the McKenna Cup, I am not complaining,” he added.