RICHARD BAIRD returns to the City of Derry line-up for tomorrow’s tricky trip to Limerick to face Thomond at Fitzgerald Park.
Michael Wilson reports
Baird’s return from a hand injury is a timely boost for Bevan Lynch who this week saw Stephen Ferguson join Bob McKillop on the casualty list following a shoulder injury picked up in the superb victory over De La Salle Palmerstown two weeks ago.
Eleventh placed Derry currently sit two places and seven points above their Limerick opposition whose most famous son is current Irish International Keith Earls. The Judges Road men are coming off the back of six straight wins in all competitions but Lynch admitted they will need to be at their best for the trip to an area locals affectionately refer to as the ‘Killing Fields of Moyross.’
“Thomond are a side that narrowly missed out on promotion two seasons ago but now they are down at the bottom fighting,” explained Derry’s Head Coach.
“It is hearty country down there and they are very passionate about their rugby. It will be a hostile environment but we have to stand up to that. Thomond are not in the best of form but they remain very dangerous opponents and have everything to play for because this league is so tight
“Like most Munster teams, they like to hold onto the ball and won’t be disappointed if there is a bit of rain but the teams they have struggled against are the ones who like to spread the ball wide and use the flanks so we will be hoping for a decent day to allow us to play our normal game.”
Tomorrow will be only the second ever meeting between the two clubs, the last being an AIL Division Two encounter during the 2001/02 season which Derry won 17-6 at Judges Road. The Limerick men had been promoted from AIL Division 3 the previous season having come from the Junior ranks for the first time in their history 12 months previously. They have remained in AIL Division 2 ever since.
Despite a relatively low league position, the Derry players have set themselves the target of a top four league finish, something which is well within their grasp.
“Clonakilty are really the only team clearly adrift in a relegation spot. The other teams below our position are basically two wins from us and we are two wins from third so that tells you how close this division is,” added Lynch.
“The last round of results highlighted that any team in this league can defeat any other on a given day. There were some crazy results so we can’t take things for granted, it will be a difficult game.
“Losing Stephen (Ferguson) is a pity because he had been having a good year and had been especially effective in the last six or seven games and Bob is just the sort of character you need when you are travelling to places like Thomond but it is good to have Richard available.”
The manner of the victory against De La Salle Palmerstown last time out suggested Derry are close to returning to the sort of form that saw them clinch the AIL Division Two title last year
“We will go down there confident but perhaps a little wary and certainly more learned than when we travelled to Midleton earlier in the season. It will be a partisan crowd and we have to make sure we defend properly. We know our pack can look after itself but the game will be about how we defend.
“With the crowd behind them Thomond will defend as if their lives depend on it and we need to show the same level of intensity which we brought to the De La Salle game,” he added.