Damian McErlain believes Derry must grab the Championship ‘bull by its horns’ against Kildare or suffer an early end to their season.
McErlain’s inaugural year as manager has been beset by bad luck in terms of player availability, misfortune that continued into the first qualifying round draw when the Oak Leafers were paired with one of only three Division One teams in the hat.
The odds may suggest a change in fortune is due but McErlain is warning his players they must take charge of their own championship destiny.
“On paper, outside Mayo and Tyrone, this is the hardest draw we could have got and I suppose that’s typical of the type of year we’ve had,” explained Oak Leaf boss, “Nothing has been easy but at some stage we have to take the bull by the horns and make something happen for ourselves. There is no tomorrow after Saturday, we have to stand up.”
Brendan Rogers remains a major doubt against opponents who have difficulties of their own following a shock Leinster Championship defeat to Carlow and relegation from the top flight without a point. However, McErlain suggests a closer examination of the Lilywhites’ results paints a different picture.
“Kildare have taken a lot of stick and will be hurting in terms of all the abuse they’ve taken and, yes, Carlow delivered on the day but it was a bit of a freak result as well. For me, Kildare were the better side.
“Carlow never kicked a wide which very rarely happens. Had we not kicked a wide against Donegal, who knows where we would have been. It was one of those days but what it means is Kildare will be looking to come to Derry and put a performance to get a bit of redemption.”
The Derry manager admitted there is still frustration following their own Ulster Championship defeat, notably the opening 15 minutes.
“The lack of intensity we brought wasn’t what we talked about. Did the heat play a factor? Maybe. Did the fact it was the first time we were playing a Division One side and it took us that crucial 10 or 15 minutes to get up to their tempo? That was costly.
“It wouldn’t have been the championship style performance we were looking for. It wasn’t bad, the effort was good and the boys did well in the sense that we had more shots than Donegal which showed we were capable of taking the game to them once we found our feet.
“But at county level you can’t give anyone a head start, particularly not a team of Donegal or Kildare’s stature. Kildare have competed with all the top teams in the country in the League. They only lost by two points to Donegal and one to Tyrone which shows the level they’re at.
“The have big, tall players who can all play ball all over the pitch. They have had some big results over the past few years and are probably more experienced than us. Look, I think it will be a powerful game and a mammoth task for us to get over the line.”