CITY of Derry return to All-Ireland League action with close to a full squad available for the trip to relegation-threatened Greystones in Dr. Hickey Park tomorrow afternoon.
Michael Wilson reports
Only long-term casualty Andrew Semple remains unavailable for Derry’s first AIL fixture since the 37-10 home victory over Bective Rangers on March 2nd and head coach, Mark Nicholl, admitted it is a nice selection headache to have. Peter Henderson returns but will have to make do with a place on the bench as Simon Logue starts at full-back as Derry look to maintain their push for a top four finish
“It looks like everyone, with the exception of Andrew, is available this weekend which makes a change,” explained Nicholl. “A number of the players, like Chris Shields, have been getting some game-time in the Seconds’ matches recently which has helped fitness and it is a nice problem to have with everyone getting back to full fitness.”
Despite having only won twice in 12 AIL games this season, Nicholl is wary of the threat posed by the Wicklow side who now face three games to save their campaign.
“The Bective game does seem a while away now but at least we are close to full strength again. Greystones are struggling a bit but they will be fighting for every point and we are expecting a very tough game this weekend.
“Sometimes at this stage of the season it is better to be playing teams sitting around mid-table, teams that are safe and have little to play for, but that is not the case with Greystones. They are battling for their lives and we must match that.
“They are a side which likes to throw the ball about a bit which should suit our style of play. Last season they had a very good right winger who did us a bit of damage but he left in the summer and they have missed him, but they can still be dangerous.
“For us the target remains as it was, securing a place in the top four and seeing where that might take us. We have some tough games left to finish but we won’t be looking any further ahead than Greystones. If we concentrate on our own game and play as we can then we should be fine.”
Nicholl was keen to pay tribute to the club’s Second XV who last week made history when they defeated Enniskillen to reach the Towns’ Cup final for the first time in their history.
James Doherty and his players went into last weekend’s semi-final as underdogs but produced a Herculean effort to record a superb 13-10 win.
“Considering the Firsts won the competition back in 2009, that gives you an indication of the sort of achievement it is by the Seconds just to reach the final and I’m delighted for James (Doherty) and his players. They fully deserve this.
“This is something we, as a club, have been working toward all season. I don’t see it as being First and Seconds squads, we have one panel and that approach seems to be paying off. The boys defending superbly last week and fully deserved the win. Their victory gives the whole club a lift,” he added.