Allianz National Football League, Division Two
Derry v Galway (Sunday, Celtic Park, 2pm)
Damian Barton has named four changes to the team that started against Cavan as Derry prepare to resume their Division Two campaign in Celtic Park against Galway on Sunday.
Thomas Mallon returns in goal in place of Eoin McNicholl as the Derry manager looks to give both his keepers game-time while Ryan Ferris starts in place of Ciaran Mullan.
Brendan Rogers has recovered from the horrific facial injury suffered against Tyrone in the opening minutes of the McKenna Cup final and starts at midfield alongside Emmett Bradley against the likely Galway pair of Paul Conroy and Fiontán Ó Curraoin, a move which may mean Mark Lynch moves to the edge of the square.
Lynch played No. 14 to excellent effect off the bench against Fermanagh in the league opener and Barton is keen to assess all his forward options although both Emmett McGuckin and Cailean O’Boyle are named on the bench should they be needed.
The only other change to the starting line-up sees Daniel McKinless come in with Christopher Bradley dropping to the bench.
Eoghan Rua duo Niall Holly and Sean Leo McGoldrick are also among the substitutes for the first time this season after their All Ireland junior hurling exploits and both players will be expected to be used at some stage in Celtic Park.
For their part, Kevin Walsh’s visitors should have Shane Walsh, Gary Sice and Finian Hanley all available while Cathal Sweeney, Gareth Bradshaw, Danny Cummins and Patrick Sweeney all returned to full training this week.
And as Barton continues to rotate players and formations, new Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue believes the competition for starting places is increasing every week.
“Two wins and we’ve tried out a lot of different things,” explained the Slaughtneil player, “But the most exciting thing in the next couple of weeks will be the competition for places in the starting 15. I’m a big believer that unless you have that competition for places you are a team that is not going to achieve anything.”
The Oak Leafers currently lead the way in Division Two on points difference from Tyrone after both sides recorded two wins from their opening two games with Galway sitting third as one of four teams with one win.
“I think the Galway game is going to be a big game,” continued McKaigue, “Ultimately they have more quality than Fermanagh and Cavan. They have a couple of really good forwards and play an attacking brand of football. They will be formidable opposition.
“We have, of course, Tyrone at Healy Park on a Saturday night which will be a big game too. So the next two games are important but when we saw the fixtures at the start of the year we knew there would be no easy games and every game is competitive. If we can produce a better performance than we did against Cavan we won’t be far away.”
Meanwhile Galway manager Kevin Walsh says his team have been working hard in the two weeks since the 1-11 to 1-09 defeat to Tyrone in a match played in atrocious conditions.
“We took a lot of positives from the Tyrone game, even though we did not get a win,” explained Walsh, “The lads worked very hard right to the finish and it was a good learning experience for some of the younger lads on our squad. We had a good few under 21s from last year that saw action and guys like Eamon Brannigan, Johnny Heaney, Enda Tierney and Peter Cooke all did well.
“We did fall out of the game at stages and that’s something we have worked on over the past two weeks, and we will be keen to avoid that happening in our up-coming games.”
The Derry team to play Galway in Celtic Park on Sunday (2.00pm) is:
1. Thomas Mallon
2. Ryan Ferris
3. Chrissy McKaigue
4. Karl McKaigue
5. Mark Craig
6. Gareth McKinless
7. Daniel Heavron
8. Emmett Bradley
9. Brendan Rogers
10. Benny Heron
11. James Kielt
12. Ciaran McFaul
13. Ryan Bell
14. Mark Lynch
15. Daniel McKinless
Substitutes: 16. Eoin McNicholl; 17. Oisin Duffy; 18. Niall Holly; 19. Conor McAtamney; 20. Conor Murphy; 21. Christopher Bradley; 22. Shane Heavron; 23. Sean Leo McGoldrick; 24. Niall Loughlin; 25. Emmett McGuckin; 26. Cailean O’Boyle.