MARK Nicholl saluted the try-scoring return of City of Derry’s Stephen Ferguson against Bective Rangers on Saturday and admitted he hasn’t given hope of challenging at the top of the table.
Michael Wilson reports
Saturday’s 37-10 victory over the Dublin side moves Derry into fifth, one point behind fourth placed Banbridge and 12 behind third placed U.C.C. who have played a game more than the Judges Road men.
Last weekend’s defeat at Highfield may have put any promotion hopes to bed for this season but Nicholl is admanat he wants his team to finish as high up the division as possible.
“Three games left and the top four is still the target,” explained Nicholl, “We know anything can happen after what happened a couple of years back in All-Ireland Three when it was the last minute of the season before we knew we had won the league. We will just hang in there and see what happens but we have to do our own job. We have to go to Limerick yet and that won’t be an easy task.”
Nicholl agreed the first half against Bective at the weekend had been frustrating for both players and supporters.
“It was a good day at the office for us. We knew Bective would be coming looking for points and we just had to show patience, which we did at the end to secure the bonus point.
“I think Bective hustled and bustled and tried to slow the game down through the refereeing. The referee actually slowed the game as well which didn’t help but overall we created the chances we needed and scored. I think we maybe had only one or two clear cut chances but we took them.
“The referee didn’t help (with the flow of the game). Every time there was a line-out or a scrum, he was slowing the game down so it was difficult to get any continuity going. The players were getting a bit frustrated by that but to be fair we always knew when we’re playing a team lower than us they are going to come out ‘all guns blazing’ and we just had to weather that for 50 or 60 minutes and we knew the tries would come.
“The last 15 minutes was when we saw the strength we have on the bench and to be honest it has been a key period for us all year. We were able to bring on players, change positions and change the game but, no, I’m delighted with the bonus point win.”
Nicholl said it was the perfect response to last weekend’s reversal in Cork. against Highfield
“Last week was disappointing. Score wise, yes, but the commitment and the effort I couldn’t fault. Highfield were up for it, it was a narrow pitch and we just couldn’t get our own game going.
“We always know what we’re getting from Stephen (Ferguson) and it is great to have him back for the end of the season at least. He is exactly the type of player we needed to carry the ball forward and that is why we brought on Bob McKillop as well. Players who can carry the ball forward and make yards are crucial and those two are key men for us.
“We had a lot of players watching today, unable to play through injury, and hopefully we can get a few of them back on the pitch soon but yes, we do have strength in depth and it shows with the Seconds getting into the Towns’ Cup semi-final. as well.”