Derry hoping to sign off poor campaign with win in Armagh
After the disappointment of the draw with Meath on Easter Sunday, Derry assistant manager Tony Scullion is still looking forward to the challenge of meeting a relegation threatened Armagh.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ve had great battles with Armagh down through the years. They are a great team and they play with great heart and passion.
“Kieran McGeeney will bring out the best in Armagh. We are looking forward to it. It’s a great challenge to go to the Athletic Grounds on Sunday.”
Scullion admitted last week’s draw with Meath was a game Derry should have wrapped up, leading as they did by four points with the wind at their backs and only 10 minutes left to play.
But, rather than put their opponents to the sword, Derry retreated into their shells and attempted to hold onto a lead that a rallying Meath quickly ate into.
Was the Ballinascreen man disappointed with the closing phases of Derry’s play, when they let the Royals off the leash?
“Disappointed in the last 10 minutes,” he acknowledged. “We were four up and we seemed to sit on our laurels. We’ve tried to defend a lead and you can’t defend a lead in Gaelic football.
“Gaelic football’s a field sport and you can’t defend a lead. We were trying our best to encourage them from the sideline here to push up. But, unfortunately, because I’ve worn that T-shirt myself, I know how difficult it is to turn it around.
“People have to remember that it’s a young Derry team. There’s no Fergal Dohertys and Patsy Bradleys any more. No Dermot McBride, you had no Enda Lynn. You had Mark Lynch only coming back from injury. We have a long injury list. I think the injuries are coming round. We’re a young team and we need to crawl before we run.”
On the injury front, Scullion had positive news on a couple of Derry’s long-term absentees.
“Dermot McBride got pretty good news the other day. In a couple of weeks he’ll be back out on the field again and we’re hoping he’ll be ready for the championship.
“Kevin Johnston is top class and a great wing-back for Derry. Kevin is back out playing in-house matches for us. He’ll be ready to go in the next two to three weeks.”
Despite Meath having the physical advantage in terms of height across the middle, with Harry Rooney and the giant Padraic Harnan enjoying a visible height advantage over Mark Lynch and Conor McAtamney, Derry won the majority of the kick-outs at Owenbeg.
Was the Derry coach concerned that his side was unable to turn that statistic into scores?
“Yes. Our kick-outs worked well but we have to put our hand on our hearts as a team and put our hands up for the two goals. At this level we haven’t kept a clean sheet this year. Even though our defence was very good today, we gave away two lapses of concentration which led to the two goals. That was killing us in the first half.”
Now Derry must show great resolve against an Armagh side that scored a late goal to draw with Tyrone.
The Orchard County must win this game to avoid the drop and that will galvanise them for the visit of Derry who will want to sign off a disappointing NFL campaign with a win.