Derry manager Damian Barton has refused to close the door on Dungiven duo Kevin Johnston and Mark Craig returning to the county panel at some stage in the future.
The St. Canice’s pair are believed to have been dropped from the panel after playing for their club in a recent Division One fixture against Banagher which went against the wishes of the county manager. Despite this, Barton said he had some sympathy for the club versus county predicament some players have found themselves in.
“We’ve had people who have come and gone during the year,” explained the Derry manager when asked if the duo had left the panel. “I said earlier on about choice. It’s a difficult situation where we (the Derry clubs) have played 12 or 13 league games, and some clubs have been under pressure for points.
“It’s very difficult to prepare people for this game (against Meath) if there’s club games the previous week. With the greatest respect to people who fix the games, it’s very hard for players not to play for their club. We have to have standards as well and an element of discipline. They’re two great fellas and maybe they’ll be back at some stage.”
Derry now face Cavan at Breffni Park and Barton has said his team’s superb second half fightback against Meath on Saturday will count for nothing if they don’t build on it with another win this weekend.
“We needed to go out and win the second half for credibility,” added the Derry manager, “It was great to repay the fans. I heard the Derry support, which is nice. We repaid that in part, but there’s no point in us winning against Meath unless we do the same next Saturday.
With the greatest respect to people who fix the games, it’s very hard for players not to play for their club.Damian Barton
“We’re our own biggest opponent when you look at the first half compared to the second half. There were boys in the first half you’d have thought had never seen a ball before. We weren’t dropping off and showing for our defence at times. It was very frustrating for our defence coming out and nobody there to kick the ball to.
“We need to look at our system maybe, our forwards were a bit too deep in the first instance, but we’re trying to change so we have to have a bit of faith in each other. I thought they stepped up and showed a lot of respect for each other and what they’ve done together, despite how difficult this year has been.”
What a result like that can do for a team?
“We’re in round three and I’m not being disrespectful, but personally I believe there are teams on a par or slightly lesser than us that are already in round four. That’s not the players’ fault. We haven’t got to the last eight. If we get that far, we’ll know we’ve achieved.”