Baird back for Ulster Senior Cup opener

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CITY of Derry will welcome back Richard Baird for tomorrow’s Ulster Senior Cup tie against Belfast Harlequins at Judges Road (k.o. 2.30pm).

Michael Wilson reports

Baird missed last week’s Ulster League defeat against the same opposition in Deramore Park but should return tomorrow after recovering from a knee injury. Davy Witherow should also return which is a boost for Bevan Lynch’s side, especially as doubts remain over Bob McKillop’s availability.

With the start of the All-Ireland League less than a month away, Derry forwards coach Mark Nicholl said his side have been working hard in training this week to eradicate the mistakes that saw them throw away a 17-point lead last week.

“There is no doubt this is the more important of the two games against Harlequins,” explained Nicholl.

“We want to get a Cup run going. We reached the final last year and, having played everyone over the past 12 months or so, there is no team for us to fear as such, so it would be our goal to try and win it.

“There will be a few changes again this week because we want to look at as many players as we can and try as many different combinations as we can ahead of the All-Ireland league. At the end of the day that’s what it is all about.”

Nicholl said both he and Bevan Lynch had been disappointed with their side’s second half showing in Belfast after a very positive opening half hour.

“Last week the Harlequins revival was down to our own mistakes, not any great play on their part. They may take some confidence from the result but that game won’t count for much this weekend. Both sides will have changes but if we concentrate on our own game and address the things that cost us last week we should be okay.

“We are treating the Ulster League almost like pre-season because the All Ireland League is what it is all about. Last week we made some silly mistakes but some of that was down to it being still early in the season. Those are the things we are working on ahead of the AIL. We were well in control in that game but our penalty count was far too high and that’s something we have looked at in training.

“There were too many turnovers at our line-outs as well and we want to see improvements on Saturday. Harlequins are a very useful side and have improved from last season. They will be a big test again but if we play the way we can and cut out the errors, then there is no reason we can’t progress,” he added.

The First XV’s Ulster Senior Cup tie game will be preceded by the Second’s game against the same opposition.