HEAD Coach James Doherty is backing the ‘Three As’ to help his City of Derry Second XV make history against favourites Ballyclare in Monday’s Towns’ Cup Final at Ravenhill (k.o. 2.30pm).
Michael Wilson reports
Ability, Attitude and Accuracy are the key words around which Doherty’s team have forged an unlikely path to the final of a competition the First XV won as recently as 2009. Monday will be the first time a Second XV from Judges Road has competed in the prestigious showpiece but Doherty is determined to ensure his players make their mark.
“We always talk about the ‘Three As’ - Ability, Attitude and Accuracy,” explained Doherty, “If we get our attitude right there is plenty of ability within the squad and then it is a question of defending properly and taking you chances.
“There is no question we are underdogs. Ballyclare are a First XV outfit and have had a very settled team who are used to winning games while I haven’t been able to pick the same squad two weeks in a row this season. That said, we’ve had superb support from the entire club and especially the Thirds if we lose players to the First XV. Paddy Owens always makes his players available which shows the structures within the club are working well, something that’s crucial to club development.”
Derry have injury concerns over captain Rodney Balfour, scrum-half Phil Duffy and influential half back Richard Peoples although all three trained this week and should be available. More of a worry is winger Robbie Logue whose foot injury may keep him out but Doherty said all four will be given every chance of proving their fitness for what should be a close contest.
“Ballyclare are a very good team and we are under no illusions about the task ahead but that’s something we have got used to in the Towns Cup this season. They led their Qualifying Two for most of the season and are still very much in the frame for promotion. Any team that has lost only two league games all season must be respected.
“They have a big pack and rely a lot on their back row so they are not too dissimilar to Enniskillen. Winning the contact at the breakdown will be vital but we have some experience players within the squad. When you look at boys like Bob McKillop who is 20 years at the club and has never played at a Ravenhill final, that tells you how seldom occasions like this come along. It shows you have to grasp your opportunity when it comes along as you don’t know when you will have that chance again.
“Motivation is not going to be an issue. If you can’t get yourself motivated for a Cup final then you shouldn’t be playing but it is the same for both sides. We have players like Mark Walker who you don’t even need to speak to before a game. Mark always plays the same way because he is 100% committed and it is a great example for the younger players.”
Doherty said training has been quite relaxed in the build-up but he expects nerves will build the closer it gets to kick-off.
“Training has been very good this week and it has been the biggest squad we have had in quite a while. Nerves haven’t been an issue so far but I think you might start to notice it close to Monday.
“The final is going to be very tight with not a lot of chances in it which means whoever takes their opportunities will win. We need to keep their back row in check and their No. 10 is a good player but we want to play our own game.
“For us the pack will lay the platform but Phil Duffy has been excellent in the cup so far but with Adam Parke and Richard Peoples pulling the strings we can hurt teams. Reaching the final is an achievement in itself but it won’t mean anything if we don’t go out and perform as we can in the final.”