BRIAN McIver has made two enforced changes to his Derry starting XV as the Oak Leafers go in search of two crucial league points against table-topping Mayo in Celtic Park this Sunday (2.30 p.m.)
With Eoin Bradley absent on a pre-arranged family holiday and Barry McGoldrick ruled out following the injury that forced him off last week against Tyrone, McIver recalls captain Mark Lynch after suspension and hands Aidan McAlynn a first league start of the season.
And despite finding themselves bottom of Division One and still awaiting a first win, the Derry manager believes it is still all to play for in a very tight table.
“The leaders, and there are a couple of them, have four points, three ahead of us which shows just how competitive this division has been this season,” explained McIver. “In other years one or two teams have tended to get away but that is not the case this year. Teams are taking points off each other and you can’t read too much into form because every team has dropped points.
“Look at Kerry. In past seasons they haven’t put too much emphasis on the league but this year they seem to be pushing on and having a real go. They prepared very well to face us and again to face Dublin.
“In league terms, everything is still very much up for grabs so we have to be as well prepared as we can and make sure we put in a positive performance over the full 70 minutes on Sunday.”
Last year . . . there was an understanding of what was a black card offence and it worked to an extent because of that but it was used less and less as the year wore on. Last week left me totally confused as to what is and isn’t a black card offenceBrian McIver
The Derry boss described last week’s controversial late draw in Healy Park as disappointing and said the inconsistent use of the black card is an area which is causing a lot of frustration.
“I felt last year, in the early stages of the league, there was an understanding from the officials and players of what was a black card offence and it worked to an extent because of that but it was used less and less as the year wore on. Last week left me totally confused as to what is and isn’t a black card offence.
“Brian Og McAlary held his hands up. As soon as he made the challenge he knew it was a black card offence and we had no argument with that decision but there were three or four very similar incidents which brought yellow cards and that is where the frustration comes in. It is all down to consistency.”
The difference that late equalising Darren McCurry free could make to Derry’s league season was not lost on the Oak Leaf manager but he refused to get caught up in the controversy.
“The lads were disappointed last week because they had put in a good performance but they know themselves, you don’t get time to dwell on any performances in this division. It was a big game last week but Mayo is another massive task and we have to be fully focused for it.”
The Derry football team to play Mayo in Celtic Park this Sunday (2.30pm) is:
1. Eoin McNicholl (Gleann an Iolair)
2. Oisín Duffy (Forghleann)
3. Niall Holly (Eoghan Rua)
4. Dermot McBride (Baile na Scrine)
5. Brian Óg McAlary (Cill Ria)
6. Kevin Johnston (Dún Geimhin)
7. Sean Leo McGoldrick (Eoghan Rua)
8. Mark Craig (Dún Geimhin)
9. Brian Óg McGilligan (Beannchar)
10. Carlus McWilliams (Baile na Scrine)
11. Mark Lynch (Beannchar)
12. Enda Lynn (Grainloch)
13. Daniel McKinless (Baile an Doire)
14. Benny Heron (Baile na Scrine)
15. Aidan McAlynn (An Lúb)
16. Thomas Mallon (An Lúb); 17. Liam McGoldrick (Eoghan Rua); 18. Michael McIver (Baile an Doire); 19. Jarlath Bradley (Baile Iarainn); 20. Fergal Doherty ; (Baile Eachaidh); 21. James Kielt (Cill Ria); 22. Seán Brady (Baile Mhic Guaigín); 23. Emmett McGuckin (Machaire Fíolta); 24. Neill McNicholl (Gleann an Iolair); 25. Niall Loughlin (Grainloch); 26. Niall Toner (Leamhaigh).