THINGS DON’T get much easier for City of Derry Rugby Club after they were handed a difficult semi-final tie against high-flying AIL Division 1B side, Ballymena in yesterday’s First Trust Ulster Senior Cup draw at Ravenhill.
SIMON COLLINS reports
Having sent Division 1B leaders, Ballynahinch packing from the competition last weekend with a superb 40-34 away victory, Bevan Lynch’s troops must do it the hard way if they are to reach their second successive Senior Cup final.
Derry will lock horns with the Co. Antrim men at Judges Road on Saturday, November 19th while Instonians and Banbridge also go head-to-head for a place in the Ravenhill showpiece to be played on December 13th.
The Judges Road men will put that unenviable task to the back of their minds for now, however, as they attempt to turn around two disappointing All-Ireland League defeats when they make the long journey to Co. Cork to face a struggling Midleton side tomorrow. (Kick-off 2.30 p.m.)
And once again fate hasn’t smiled kindly on Lynch’s troops as the Kiwi coach was dealt a huge blow with the loss of influential lock, Bob McKillop who sustained a knee injury during Saturday’s win at Ballynahinch.
With fellow lock, David Houston unavailable to travel this weekend, Chris Cooper sidelined with a broken leg and Phil Brady currently working in Dubai, Lynch will have to put his faith in his squad players to pull together and produce a winning performance against the Munster men tomorrow afternoon.
“We’ve suffered a few injuries to key players and there’s a few unavailable for this weekend’s game,” confirmed Lynch. “Obviously with losing Bob (McKillop) and David Houston, we’re under pressure for the locking stocks and the squad will have to contribute to make up for that.
“We’ve gone from having a wealth of locks when we had four to having none at the moment so we’ll be a little bit make-shift, which is not ideal because Midleton’s strength is their forwards.
“But if we mirror the performance we had last weekend in Ballynahinch then we should be good enough to come out with a result.
“Thankfully the boys delivered a pretty good response to two weeks of mediocrity so we were pleased to get that one under our belts. It was timely that we had such a great team performance.”
Midleton have lost all three AIL games so far this season. However, Lynch knows, especially with the lack of strength in the Derry locking department, that his squad will have to dig deep to get a result.
“It’s not easy to go down there they have a real heavy pitch which will suit their style of play so it’s going to be tough to come away with points. We’re under no illusions about the challenge it’s going to be.
“Just because we’ve beaten a team in Division 1B it doesn’t count for much when you’re down in the muck in Cork. We’ll just have to roll our sleeves up, get stuck in and work really hard for each other and hopefully we can come back with a few more points in the bag. Two losses is bad enough but to go three in a row would put paid to challenging for those promotion spots.
“If we can harvest some points against Midelton we’d be happy enough with the start we’ve made.”