EOIN BRADLEY is likely to be among the substitutes as Derry go in search of the first trophy of John Brennan’s reign against arch rivals Tyrone in tomorrow’s Dr. McKenna Cup final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (throw-in 7.00 p.m.)
MICHAEL WILSON reports
The Glenullin player’s 24-weeks suspension - imposed for an altercation with Dungiven referee, Declan O’Connor, after his club’s Senior Championship defeat to Ballinascreen in August - will lapse at midnight on Friday night, freeing-up the talented forward to rejoin a panel which has made an excellent start to life under the Lavey man.
Bradley’s availability will come as a major boost for Brennan as he attempts to plot Derry’s second defeat of the ‘Red Hands’ in less than a week following last Sunday’s narrow Allianz Division Two success at Celtic Park.
That single-point victory continued Derry’s 100 per cent start to the new season but the Derry manager is under no illusions that his side will have to improve again to complete a memorable week against the O’Neill County.
“You could use the word revenge, but that would have to come from their side, the word we are concentrating on is ‘repeat,’” revealed the Derry manager, who is not expected to name his team until this evening.
“We need to make sure we continue to do the things we did right last week but also make fewer mistakes. We know we have to improve because we are up against master tacticians. They will have looked at what went wrong with their performance and address that. We need to do likewise with our own game.
“It probably would be better for both teams to be facing different opposition this week but I know Mickey Harte says he enters every competition with the intention of winning it and I’m exactly the same,” added Brennan.
Brennan will be forced to reshuffle his panel again this week with a number of players cup-tied, having turned out for their universities earlier in the competition. Absent will be Charlie Kielt and last weekend’s second half heroes Emmett McGuckin and Caolan O’Boyle whose introduction helped Derry stem the ‘Red Hand’ revival.
“It will be a different game from last week in that I have to select from a different panel. Unfortunately we have players who are McKenna Cup-tied which means we will have to make changes, but that presents opportunities for other players.
“With the intensity of last week’s games we have some players carrying niggling injuries but we won’t know the full extent of these until after training. Last week was a fantastic game and an excellent result for us, but we know we will have to improve because Tyrone will.”
Tyrone qualified for tomorrow’s final courtesy of a second half comeback on Wednesday night against a Cavan side which led 0-10 to 0-06 at half-time. However, the dismissal of Stephen Jordan on a second yellow card seven minutes into the second half, changed the complexion of the game as quick goals from Martin Penrose (penalty) and Paddy McNeice eased Tyrone to a 2-11 0-14 victory.
While the venue for the final seems strange choice given the counties involved, Brennan said his players were looking forward to the chance to win silverware.
“It does seem strange that the game is in Armagh, but we have no problem with that, we don’t make these decisions and it will be a new experience playing at a ground that very few of our players will have played at before.
“I thought at half-time on Wednesday it looked like it might be Cavan coming through but Tyrone showed last week against us in the second half they are very resilient and they showed that once again to fight back and get into the final.
“They maybe have a slight advantage in that they won’t have to change their panel to the extent we have to, but the game should be as close as it was last week,” he concluded.