City of Derry entertain Harlequins

City of Derry's Chris Shields
City of Derry's Chris Shields

CITY of Derry will welcome back Chris Shields as they look to keep the pressure on Ulster Senior League leaders Ballynahinch this weekend with the visit of Belfast Harlequins to Judges Road (k.o. 2.30pm).

Michael Wilson reports

Derry, with only two games left, are four points adrift of Hinch in second spot but with the leaders still to play third placed Malone, top spot may not be beyond the reach of the Judges Road men.

In contrast to Ulster League games earlier in the season head Coach Mark Nicholl is keen to try and keep as settled a side as possible as he looks to finish the season on a high but he will be without Tom Patton (knee injury) and Davy Houston (work commitments) on Saturday.

“At this stage of the season we have looked at every player we want to look at in terms of testing players out so it is important to keep as settled a side as possible,” explained Nicholl.

“Yes, there are only two games left in the Ulster League for us but we want to finish as strongly as possible in case Ballynahinch slip up. It would be nice for the players to have some silverware to end the season with but we can only look after ourselves and make sure we do our job properly. That way if there is the opportunity we will be in a position to exploit it.”

Derry’s final Ulster League fixture will be against Ballymena on April 27th in a rearranged game and while Ballynahinch will be expected to defeat Rainey Old Boys, Nicholl is looking for his side to build on last week’s 37-10 AIL victory over Bective Rangers.

“Last weekend was a good result, we were able to go to the bench at the right time and inject some firepower into the game,” added Nicholl.

“The boys who started all did their jobs though. When you’re applying a team lower than you are you have to grind them down and the players did that for 40 or 50 minutes and then our strength in depth proved crucial.

“Previous to last week, concentration had been a problem in the last 10 minutes so it was pleasing to see that we didn’t concede during that period against Bective. Harlequins will be a tough game but we want to make sure we finish the Ulster League as strongly as possible.”

Harlequins sit ninth in the table with four wins from their nine games and will be underdogs against a Derry team whose only defeat in the Division came against Ballynahinch at the end of December.