DERMOt McBRIDE will captain Derry in the absence of the injured Mark Lynch after Brian McIver made two changes for this Sunday’s crucial Division Two trip to Louth (throw-in 2pm).
Michael Wilson reports
Raymond Wilkinson’s impressive cameo in last week’s victory over Longford in Celtic Park in enough to earn him a first league start of the season with Emmett McGuckin dropping to the bench while Lynch’s position at centre-half back will be filled by Michael Bateson who replaced the Banagher man 13 minutes into the second half against Glenn Whelan’s men.
The loss of Lynch, who has been in superb form all season, will be a setback according the Derry boss but such is the confidence in the rejuvenated panel that McIver is adamant they have enough to cope with the loss of their influential captain.
“Mark sustained two broken bones in his hand during the Longford game,” confirmed McIver this week, “He is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.
“Losing a player like Mark is obviously a setback but it’s also chance for others now to step up to the plate. Mark has shown tremendous leadership all year and towards the end of last year. However, we need an entire squad of leaders and it is up to the other fellas to fill that space until Mark returns.”
The omission of McGuckin, who had picked up a couple of niggling injuries, may see a shift in attacking emphasis with no out and out target man named but the Derry manager stressed he was picking his team based on performance, both in matches and in training.
Westmeath’s 4-11 to 0-16 victory over Wexford in Wexford Park on Monday afternoon relegated Derry back into second spot in the Divsion Two table as one of six teams still with designs on a top two finish. Louth currently sit fourth on five points, two behind the Oak Leafers but victory for Derry on Sunday would effectively rule Aidan O’Rourke’s team out of the hunt. The irony is before last weekend’s superb victory in Armagh, the Wee County would have been more concerned with issues at the bottom of the table but such in the congestion in Division Two, that one victory or defeat can drastically change any county’s outlook as McIver is only too aware.
“Sunday is a big game for both Louth and Derry,” added the Ballinderry man, “Louth have had some tremendous results this year, most notably last week against Armagh, and also in a six point defeat of Galway earlier in the year. Drogheda will be a tough place to go as many have found out over the past few years in both league and championship.”
McIver has displayed his tactical nous to great effect already throughout this league campaign with last week’s introduction of Wilkinson the latest illustration of Derry’s ability to positively change a game if required.
“It’s important to us that we have lads who can come off the bench to make an impact. I’m happy with the all lads who have been doing that all year. Following his second half inclusion last week against Longford, and on the basis of that display and training, Raymond (Wilkinson) comes into the starting line-up for Sunday.”
League leaders Westmeath face a potentially tricky fixture against an Armagh side who will still be licking their wounds from the surprise defeat to Louth in the Athletic Grounds last Saturday. Entering the closing stages of the game, Louth appeared to have squandered a great opportunity to grab victory. Despite playing against 14 men for much of the game Louth failed to capitalise with Brian White’s missed penalty contributing to Armagh holding a one-point lead.
However, it was the Cooley player who led the revival with an equalising point from a tricky free, before injury-time points from Ciaran Byrne and Shane Lennon handed their side victory over O’Rourke’s native county.
It was a win achieved without established players Paddy Keenan and John O’Brien who were unable to start despite being named in the team while Louth also lost Gerard Hoey to a second yellow card five minutes before the end so Derry can expect nothing easy in Drogheda.