CITY of Derry’s recent renaissance faces its acid test tomorrow when fellow promotion hopefuls Greystones arrive at Judges Road for what is a ‘must-win game’ for both sides.
Michael Wilson reports
Prior to the Christmas break, Derry’s focus was centred on avoiding being dragged into a relegation dogfight but such has been the upturn in fortunes for Bevan Lynch’s team, they now have legitimate claims on second spot and with it, the promotion play-off spot.
That scenario appeared unthinkable only a few months ago before a frank team meeting in which Lynch, fellow coach Mark Nicholl and the players themselves laid a few ‘home truths’ on the table. The result. A seven game winning streak in all competitions which has propelled Derry into ninth position, only six points behind second placed De La Salle Palmerstown,
For their part, Greystones sit sixth, three points better off than Derry but in what is becoming an increasingly congested top half of the table, neither team can afford to lose tomorrow.
Add into the mix Derry’s narrow 23-18 defeat to the Wicklow men last season when the locals lost prop Sam Duffy less than 20 minutes in and the ingredients add up to a potentially explosive clash.
“The entire squad have been looking forward to this fixture since we beat Thomond a couple of weeks ago,” admitted Lynch.
“We were disappointed to have been beaten down at their place last season when things did not go for us on the day. Greystones are a good outfit with a strong pack and a few outstanding backs that are quick and elusive if given any space.
“But we are in a good position and playing exciting rugby at the moment. The players are hungry for success but we know that cannot be achieved without hard work.
“It will be down to Mark Nicholl and myself to make sure the attitude and work ethic are right if we are to perform at our best. It is going to be a tough test, but we are looking forward to a decent crowd coming out for what should be an excellent game.”
Derry’s relationship with Greystones goes back a long way as the Wicklow men were one of three clubs from the Dublin area to play friendly fixtures in the City during the troubles.
The two teams have played met four times in either All Ireland League Division 2 or 3 with Derry’s only victory coming during the 2003/04 season when they won at home in AIL 3 by 30-6.
Greystones suffered a real setback to their own promotion aspirations last time out when they went down 40-23 at home to Corinthians on the same day Derry were recording a resounding victory in Thomond by 37- 13.
The statistics add up to what should be another tight game at Judges Road with Derry putting their recent winning run up against Greystones’ superior record from previous encounters, something Lynch and Nicholl will be anxious to address.
The pre-season goal for both teams would have been a top four position in the league but a promotion play-off will keep the season alive for either team.
City of Derry (from): Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Gareth Beattie, David Witherow, Brian Prue, David Houston, Stephen Ferguson, Stephen Corr, Mark Walker, Richard Baird, Stephen Duffy, Johnny Lyons, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Josh Lewis, Adam Parke, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, Adam Bratton, Simon Logue, David Funston. David Graham, Peter Henderson.