CITY OF Derry coach, Bevan Lynch, has warned his title chasing team that their tendency to start slowly could cost them more than the Ulster Senior Cup if they do not overcome it when they face fellow promotion hopefuls Seapoint in Dublin tomorrow afternoon.
MICHAEL WILSON reports
Before the 25-0 Ravenhill defeat to Dungannon in December, the locals had fallen behind in their previous five outings before showing considerable reserves to recover and register some fine victories. That ‘never-say-die’ attitude has won the Judges Road men many plaudits over the past two seasons but Lynch warned they cannot afford to continue allowing teams of Seapoint’s quality a head-start if they are to stay at the top of AIL Division Three.
“For us as a squad, winning the division was a goal at the start of the season and this game can be a decisive moment for us,” explained Lynch, who will be without Richard McCarter, Stephen Corr and Stephen Sims for the trip to Leinster.
“From our point, yes, we need to reverse the slow starts we’ve been experiencing in recent games. We got away with it in a couple of games but we can’t afford to keep doing it and we have spoken about it as a group.
“Over the last couple of seasons in junior rugby, the scenario we faced was simple - win and score four tries doing so. This made it simple for every player and set out exactly what we needed to do as a team.
“Again, at the start of this season we faced a few clubs for whom there was no love lost after the way they treated the club when we were out of senior rugby, so motivation was not a problem.
“However, a certain level of success seems to have brought its own problem and we’ve had to revisit how we start because a certain level of apathy has crept into how we’ve begun games recently and we can’t afford that.
“We got away with it against Ballynahinch and Queen’s but you can’t normally give teams of that calibre a start as we saw in the Ulster Cup final.
“If you have aspirations of winning the league, then these games have special significance. Seapoint will be in the top three come the end of the season and to stay in control of our own destiny we need a result. You can’t be relying on upsets later in the season because, with the calibre of teams at the top of this league, that won’t happen.”
Motivation is unlikely to be a problem for Lynch tomorrow as he faces the only team to have left Judges Road with victory over the past two seasons. The Dubliners came to the North West venue at the end of last season in the Round Robin Promotion Series and plundered a 17-9 victory that initially looked to have condemned Derry to another season in junior rugby.
It didn’t and the locals recovered to defeat Portadown in a dramatic play-off but these are two teams who know each other well and who will have a big say on the destination of the Division Three title.
“The Ulster Cup was a different entity altogether, the AIL has always been our priority and that has not changed,” revealed Lynch, “And to do well you need to win the big games. This is certainly one of those.
“We didn’t show up the day Seapoint beat us at Judges Road for whatever reason, but we have no reason to fear them. We defeated them in Dublin in the Junior Cup last season with a fairly weakened side and we know what to expect.
“They are a gritty side which is defensively strong and we will have to be at our best to break them down. Both sides know each other well so there are unlikely too be many surprises for either side.”
The two teams have each played six league games, wining five and losing one apiece with Derry one point ahead having accumulated an extra bonus point. The league leaders, Ulster rivals Instonians, are just one point in front of Derry.
The Dubliners’ only defeat came away to Sunday’s Well at Musgrave Park in a game they should have won, but the occasion and their first time playing at the Provincial Ground got the better of them, not that Lynch is anticipating an easy game tomorrow.
“Seapoint played Ards before Christmas but every team is in a similar situation. The weather has not allowed a lot of rugby to be played and kept outdoor training to a minimum, so there is likely to be a bit of ring-rust from each team, but it is going to be a tight game,” he added.
City of Derry (from) - Davy Witherow, Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Stephen Duffy, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, Tom Patton, David Houston, Richard Baird, Chris Cooper, Philip Brady, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, David Funston, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue, William Mc-Cleery, Stuart Thompson, David Murdock, Peter Henderson.