JOHN Brennan believes Derry’s next three fixtures will determine their Allianz League Division Two destiny, as he attempts to plot a course towards promotion back to Division One.
MICHAEL WILSON reports
On Sunday, Brennan takes his unbeaten side to St. Conleith’s Park, Newbridge, to meet Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare for what looks on paper to be the toughest game on the Derry fixture list. After opening with a home victory over Tyrone, a win against another ‘top two’ hopeful would be a major step towards the Derry objective but the Lavey man has been frustrated in his attempts to finalise a panel for the game.
No less than 10 potential Oak Leaf players were in Sigerson action yesterday and while not all would be involved with the senior panel, the Derry manager faces an anxious wait before he is able to name a squad.
“We don’t want to start looking too far ahead of ourselves,” he explained. “Tyrone was a good start but now we have Kildare, then Laois at home and away to Sligo. That’s a tough run of games, but they should tell us whether we are in any position to think about promotion.
“Kildare is very good side but make no mistake we are going there looking a win and we will do everything in our power to get the points.
“What’s frustrating is that I cannot, with any confidence, even name a panel yet because of the players we have involved in the Sigerson Cup. Even when the games are over we will have to see how the players have come through and what condition they might be in.
“It is unfortunate that Derry seem to have more players involved than most other counties but again that is outside my control and we just have to deal with it,” declared Brennan.
One player definitely out is Bellaghy’s Joe Diver who underwent an operation on Monday after injuring his knee whilst playing for UUJ in last month’s McKenna Cup against Donegal. He could be out for up to two months but there was better news with the return of Michael Drumm while Barry McGoldrick is also fit. However, Brennan’s frustrations at the over-lapping of competitions are obvious. Especially when the McKenna Cup final against Tyrone (pencilled in for March 5th) complicates the equation further.
“To be honest I don’t know if Joe’s injury is a big blow for us or not because I haven’t been able to have a look at him yet this season. Jordanstown took him for the McKenna Cup and he got injured in the first game so we will have to wait and see how he goes with his recovery.
“It would have been nice to get it (the McKenna Cup final) played so we could fully concentrate on the league but no-one could have forecast what happened. You cannot legislate for these things and we will deal with it.
“However, it means we still have players cup-tied and it can be very frustrating to bring in players for a few leagues games, watch them do well and then have to drop them out when the McKenna final comes around.
“To be honest - and I think Mickey Harte has also alluded to this in the past - the cup-tied thing is something that should be looked at.”
One player who is available is Eoin Bradley who would have been free from suspension for last week’s McKenna Cup final but Brennan revealed he has yet to decide whether or not to include the gifted Glenullin forward in the panel for Newbridge.
“Eoin’s suspension is up and he joined the panel this week for training but we are still assessing what his fitness levels are after being out for so long. He gives us another good option but I haven’t decided if he will be involved this weekend. Stepping back into inter-county football is a big ask. I will have a chat with him and we’ll take it from there.
“Kildare enjoyed a good performance and positive result in their opener against Antrim and this is going to be a tough game. Hopefully we can get through it without injury and with the right result,” he added.