Conor McAtamney’s superb display against Tyrone last week means he looks set to be given the chance to make a midfield slot his own when Derry take on Fermanagh at Celtic Park on Sunday (throw-in 2.15pm).
Brendan Rogers looks likely to miss out after the first minute facial injury he received following Tiarnan McCann’s challenge so McAtamney is expected to continue his partnership with Emmet Bradley and will be hoping to further press his claims to fill the void left by Fergal Doherty’s retirement from inter-county duty.
Derry manager Damian Barton will not finalise his team until Friday but with Enda Lynn also out, Steelstown’s Neil Forester comes into contention to start while Conor Kearns and Shane Heavron will be hoping to get the nod to replace the Greenlough forward as Barton seeks to get off to a winning start.
Dermot McBride should be fit for the Oak Leafers who could also have both Mark Lynch and Emmet McGuckin back competing after the influential trio all sat out last week defeat in the Athletic Grounds.
Eoghan Rua’s historic qualification for the All Ireland Junior Hurling Final on February 6th means Barton will not have those Coleraine players involved available until the third match against Galway on February 28th.
Derry go into the game as favourites despite an impressive McKenna Cup campaign from Pete McGrath’s team who registered victories over both Donegal and Down before losing to Tyrone in the semi-final.
Both managers know the importance of a positive start in a Division that contains five Ulster counties with Derry facing four away games in their seven fixtures, including trips to Tyrone, Armagh and Meath.
After a number of encouraging displays already this season, Barton will be anxious to see how that translates into league form he can build on for the championship.