City of Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster believes his sides are facing a season defining five games in five weeks but warned his players not to look past Saturday’s visit of bottom of the table Seapoint.
The Judges Road men are six points clear at the top of Division 2B with second placed Highfield - the only team to have defeated Derry this season, albeit in controversial circumstances - due next weekend but McMaster says no one can afford to look that far ahead.
We are facing into a crucial period of the season, the next five weeks will be season defining, there is no doubt of thatCity of Derry Head Coach, Terry McMaster
Despite a record of nine defeats from nine games, Seapoint gave Derry a huge test on their visit to Kilbogget Park before the visitors edged it 20-18 and McMaster is expecting a tough game this weekend.
“Highfield is on the horizon and is a huge game but there will only but one team in our minds this week and that’s Seapoint,” explained McMaster.
“They might be bottom of the table but they were one of the best teams we played this year. They out-muscled us at the break down the last time we met which is something we’ll have to address on Saturday and they got into our line-out second half which was disappointing.
“That said, conditions were difficult that day with driving rain and a wind that made playing rugby difficult. We played against the breeze in the first half but it turned on us in the second half so we never had the benefit of it.
“They were cute at the break down, holding our boys in and preventing us from getting any quick ball, but we are at home this weekend and I would back us at home against anybody.”
With the exception of long term injury victim, Chris Shields, the Derry squad is close to a full bill of health with Neil Brown and Rory Squires back in training although Brown is not expected to be risked this weekend ahead of games against Highfield, Rainey, Greystones and Dungannon.
“We are facing into a crucial period of the season, the next five weeks will be season defining, there is no doubt of that,” added the Derry Head Coach.
“The next five games are crucial to us. Highfield could decide if we open up a gap or if it will go down to the wire but we can’t take our eyes off Seapoint. It’s my job to make sure Seapoint is the only team in anyone’s mind this weekend. They gave us plenty of problems in Dublin and we are conscious of the threat they pose.
“Collectively - and I am talking about forwards and backs - we are one of the best attacking units in the league but defensively I have been disappointed at times this season. When you play the expansive game we do there are always risks and a number of teams have scored intercept tries against us this year but we have to cut out the soft penalties and ill discipline which has cost us as well.”
Keeping players fit during the next month or two will be crucial but McMaster says his players are in good hands with Strength and Conditioning Coach, Joe Gallanagh.
“We normally wouldn’t do much contact in training. With the way the game is going, it has become so physical that if the lads are putting that in on a Saturday, then that is enough. We have been fortunate on the injury front but much of that is down to the great work being done by Joe Gallanagh.
“We are in decent shape at the minute but now it is crucial we push on and that starts with Seapoint on Saturday.”