BEVAN LYNCH is hoping captain Sam McAuley will come through a late fitness test to take his place in the starting XV as City of Derry welcome old foes Seapoint to Judges Road for a crucial AIL Division 2A clash (k.o 2.30pm).
Michael Wilson reports
Both McAuley and Chris Barber picked in knocks during the first half of last week’s narrow Ulster Senior Cup semi-final defeat to Ballymena but while McAuley should be okay, Barber looks set to miss the game.
His absence could be offset though by the return of Simon Logue for a game which is crucial as both clubs seek to get involved in the promotion race.
Only three points separate the sides who have both climbed out of Junior rugby over the past three seasons with Seapoint currently seventh on 13 points and Derry 11th on 10 points.
“Seapoint are a side that are not dissimilar to ourselves and play a decent brand of rugby but their main strength is they are very good defensively and the recent weather could severely limit our options for opening them up,” explained Lynch.
“We have a couple of the guys carrying knocks from last week’s game and it is unfortunate that Chris Barber looks like missing out but we’re hopeful Sam (McAuley) will come through training.”
The last meeting between the teams came in last season’s AIL Division Three when Derry were denied what they believed was a late, match winning try in Dublin before going on to clinch the title on a dramatic last day of the season. The Judges Road side’s last victory over the Leinster men came in their Irish Junior Cup winning season of 2008 when they knocked Seapoint out en-route to the trophy.
“There have been some tight games between the teams in recent seasons and we are keen to level things up on our home pitch because at the minute the score stands 2-1 in their favour.
“Our last meeting is still pretty clear in the mind. We had the chance to get a draw but went for a win and looked like we had got it but the referee decided the ball wasn’t grounded, it was one of those things.
“Seapoint will travel up here under no illusions and they know if they win they can stay in a good position for a promotion push so we will have to be ready for a battle.
“The key man for them is their out-half. He is a very strong, traditional out-half and dictates everything for them. He is the key to their game so we will have to try and target him but I’m confident our forwards will have the better of them come scrum time. Our scrum has been very strong in recent weeks and we have done well in the forwards against Seapoint in the past.”
The Derry head coach revealed the squad have been watching re-runs of last week’s 33-27 defeat against Ballymena which saw his side concede two trys inside the opening nine minutes.
“We just have to eradicate those silly mistakes we seem to be making time and time again. Against Ballymena we did a lot of good things but you are not unlucky if you’re defending like we did for the opening period.
“We seemed to let the emotion of the occasion run away with us last week but this weekend’s game will be a similar affair with a lot of recent history between the teams and we can’t let that effect our game,” added Lynch.