Derry seek to close gap on top two

CITY OF Derry supporters may have one eye on Kilbogget Park, Dublin tomorrow despite their team welcoming Wanderers to Judges Road for a must-win AIL Division Three fixture (kick-off 2.30pm).

Bevan Lynch’s men currently sit third in the table, two points Seapoint and four behind leaders Instonians with the two clashing at the Leinster venue. That meeting of the top two provides Derry with the perfect opportunity to close the gap in a league which does not often see the top side slip.

Lynch’s men will be overwhelming favourites for the visit of the side who currently play their rugby at the new Aviva Stadium though the New Zealander (right) will be keen to ensure there is a marked improvement from last week’s home victory over Navan.

Lynch missed that five-try victory due to a family wedding but returns this weekend to a fully-fit squad with forwards coach Mark Nicholl admitting the players themselves know they have to step up their level of performance.

“The players were disappointed with their performance last week but when you score five trys to one, get your bonus point and are still not happy, it says a lot about the mentality of this squad,” explained Nicholl.

“We definitely were a bit rusty but that was to be expected considering the few games we’ve had recently. We have everyone on the first team squad healthy and available for selection this weekend.”

Historic Wanderers

Wanderers are one of the most historic clubs in Ireland, having been founded circa 1870 and based at the home of Irish rugby in Lansdowne Road.

Tomorrow’s fixture will be the 12th AIL meeting between the teams and the record does not make pretty reading for Derry supporters. The two clubs have locked horns six times in Division 2 and five in Division 3, the ‘Dublin 4’ outfit winning eight and losing on only three occasions.

The last time the teams met was in February 2007 in AIL Division 3 with Wanderers winning 36-14 in what was one of the last games ever played at the old Lansdowne Road Stadium as the following season Wanderers moved all their games at their second ground on Merrion Road.

Wanderers won AIL Division 3 that season and were promoted while Derry finished second from bottom of AIL 3 and had to defeat Armagh at home in a play-off to retain their Senior status.

The two clubs have had interesting journeys in the interim period since, Derry now competing at the top of the League while Wanderers are fourth from bottom on nine points. The teams’ results on Saturday last reflected their positions in the league this season, Wanderers beaten in the Aviva Stadium by league leaders Instonians 12-27 and Derry securing the bonus point victory over Navan.

Current form may point to a convincing home win but Derry will be mindful of history repeating itself.

City of Derry (From): Davy Witherow, Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Stephen Duffy, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, Tom Patton, David Houston. Stephen Corr, Stephen Simms, Richard Baird, Chris Cooper, Philip Brady, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, Richard McCarter, David Funston, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue, William McCleery, David Murdock, Josh Lewis, Peter Henderson.