Henderson could be back for Ballymena

City of Derry's Josh Lewis keeps his marker at arms length during the game with Instonians at Judges Road. (1312JB69)
City of Derry's Josh Lewis keeps his marker at arms length during the game with Instonians at Judges Road. (1312JB69)

BEVAN LYNCH is hoping to have influential full-back, Peter Henderson, available for the Ulster League clash with Ballymena on New Year’s Eve.

Michael Wilson reports

Henderson has not played since breaking his cheekbone against Midleton at the end of October and his absence has been keenly felt. However with Chris Cooper also on the mend and Derry picking up a much needed AIL victory against Instonians on Saturday, things are suddenly looking much brighter at Judges Road.

“We are hoping the New Year’s Eve game against Ballymena will be Peter’s return which will be massive for us, we have really missed him and ‘Coops’,” explained the Derry Head coach.

Saturday’s victory lifts Derry up to 12th in the Division 2A table and with the next fixture against Clonakilty not until the end of January, Lynch is hoping he has a nice selection headache by the time the game comes round.

“The AIL break gives us six weeks to really work on things. Chris is walking and getting up on his toes now but we just have to see how things develop though we would love to get him back on for the next AIL game.

“You can see we have the right personnel there, it is not just a ‘jumper’ that has been missing in line-outs for us recently, it is three or four other things but the boys put it right this week.

“Everyone played well against Instonians. We were not leaving the ball lying around as we have been. At one stage I think 17 seconds was our record for the ball lying there waiting to be distributed.

“All these boys have a free licence to run with the ball so it was great to see the pick and go, people like Sam McAuley picking it up and taking that extra couple of metres to keep the pace on the ball which is key to our style.

“We did that well and the pleasing thing was we got a bit of reward for our work and the players could see the stuff we talk about and map out at training actually works for us.”

As well as the potential return of Henderson and Cooper, William McCleery’s unexpected return form Canada should again provide the squad with more depth.

“William’s return was a little Christmas bonus. He just sort of wandered into training last week and we are pretty pleased about that.

“He was our young player of the year last year so he is going to put some pressure on the wingers and Willie is one of those guys who doesn’t give the ball away. We’ve got some ‘high-risk’ boys but Willie seems to do the right thing at the right time and he is a tremendous defender. In saying that, the other boys will work hard to keep him out and that competition is good for everyone,” he added.