CITY of Derry Head coach Mark Nicholl claimed he will be looking for a big improvement this weekend against Cashel after Saturday’s defeat to Galwegians left the Judges Road club eighth in the AIL Division 2A.
Michael Wilson reports
Nicholl cut a frustrated figure on Saturday as Derry threw away an early 13-point lead against a team likely among their promotion rivals and he admitted individuals errors were costing his team.
“Saturday was very, very disappointing,” explained the Derry coach, “We made a lot of crucial errors in crucial parts of the field which caused us to lose momentum at key times. It was a disappointing day for us.
“We stopped working hard, stopped going through our patterns and boys started to play individual rugby which we have talked about for a long time and is something you just cannot afford to do it. Galwegians were more physical than we were and they started to win the collisions second half. When you start winning the collisions, you get ‘go-forward’ ball and that’s what they got. It was the big difference in the end up.
“We talked about our patterns of play before the game and some of the players were actually on those patterns but other guys didn’t put the ball in the right positions for them. It was disappointing because it was a game I thought we could have controlled from start to finish had we been able to keep our composure.”
The loss of play-maker Richard McCarter in the second half did not help the Derry cause, McCarter still struggling with the groin injury which had forced him out of the Ulster Senior Cup semi-final the previous week against Ballymena.
“We defended well at the start of the game but any time we got into their half we knocked-on and continually lost momentum which meant they were able to constantly bring the ball back down the field and force us to regroup. That was the disappointing thing, that we couldn’t hold on to the ball long enough in the second half to build a few phases because when we did we actually looked dangerous but losing Richard McCarter was another bitter blow. When he is on song we can play the wide game and that’s where we really needed him in the second half but it wasn’t to be.”
With seven points missed from first half kicks, Nicholl conceded he has been concerned about his side’s conversion rate recently, especially with a number of recognised kickers in the squad.
“It was very poor. We were doing work with the kickers on Thursday night but it doesn’t seem to have paid off. It was probably a lack of confidence and, in fairness, a few of them are carrying groin injuries which means they are struggling to kick properly. Our kicking has been letting us down in the last few games and it certainly let us down for a fair few points today.”
Despite the result the Derry coach believes his team can still turn things around and challenge at the top of the table.
“We were in this situations last season with a couple of consecutive defeats before Christmas and we managed to turn that around after Christmas but we are still a good side. We just have to regroup and start again.
“I am hoping to have our skipper David Funston back next week which will be a huge boost because he is a player we have missed over the last couple of weeks and I am also hoping Bob McKillop will be fit. Cashel have a big pack and we will be looking to bring as many physical players as we can with us,” he added.