Late tests for duo as Derry travel to Dublin

Brian Prue wins this line-out ball
Brian Prue wins this line-out ball

CITY of Derry will give late fitness tests to Richard McCarter and Brian Prue ahead of this weekend’s All Ireland League Division 2A trip to Dublin to face De La Salle Palmerstown.

Michael Wilson reports

McCarter picked up a hamstring injury five minutes into last weekend’s victory over Queen’s at Judges Road but remained on and now faces a race against time to face the Leinster side but Head Coach Mark Nicholl is hopeful Prue will be available. Definitely ruled out are Bob McKillop and Davy Witherow who join the Judges Road casualty list just as Ryan Campbell and Chris Cooper are both available again. The ‘revolving door’ scenario is something Nicholl has been forced to get used to.

“There are a number of niggling injuries the lads are picking up and it can be frustrating,” admitted Derry’s Head Coach, “Bob in particular has been unlucky. Every time he seems to be getting a few games and close to full match fitness again, something happens and he’s ruled out but that’s what the panel is for.”

Last weekend’s comprehensive 38-17 victory over Queen’s reinforced Derry’s return to form after an impressive ulster League win in Banbridge the week before but Nicholl knows his side cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Tomorrow’s opponents sit second from bottom of the AIL 2A table with only two victories from eight games while Derry have moved into seventh and are only two points off fifth.

With only Banbridge and Highfield still to play of the teams above them, Nicholl knows the opportunity is there for Derry to climb the table if they can achieve a string of good results.

“Last week against Queen’s was a good result and importantly a good performance. We were the better team all round and probably left a couple of tries out there but the important thing is we were creating chances and were solid in defence.

“We are looking forward to travelling to Dublin but despite what the league suggests it will be a tough game. We played De La Salle last year and won by a couple of points when they were going very well. After that they never won a game but that was a very good game, a close game and tomorrow will be a similar scenario.

“They usually play quite an open game but their strength is definitely in their backs so we will have to make sure our defence is good and we make our tackles.”

Last week’s victory over the Belfast Students was the first time this season Derry have deprived AIL opposition of any points and Nicholl wants to see that trend continue tomorrow.

“Yes, that was a pleasing aspect about last week but we need to continue with that form. We still hold aspirations of finishing in the top four. In our remaining fixtures we only play two teams, Banbridge and Highfield, who are currently above us in the league so the challenge is there for us.”

City of Derry first played De La Salle Palmerston in the 1998-1999 season and have since met on several occasions with the Dubliners winning four times and Derry three. Last season’s meeting saw De la Salle arrive at Judges Road full of confidence and vying for top spot in the league. The game was played on the Seconds pitch following heavy overnight frost and a morning of incessant rain. Derry produced a powerful display from the forwards with No. 8 Stephen Ferguson outstanding as he scored a try himself, set one up for David Funston and was involved in the penalty try decision as Derry won an thrilling game 22-17.

City of Derry (from); Steven Jefferson, David Ferguson, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Paul McFeely, Brian Prue, Chris Cooper, David Houston, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, David Funston, Richard Baird, Jack Caithness, Richard McCarter, Simon Logue, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, David Graham, Peter Henderson, Richard Peoples, William McCleery, Robbie Logue.