City of Derry Head Coach Terry McMaster is hoping this weekend’s Ulster Senior League game against Malone will help his side get over the frustrations of their first AIL Division 2B defeat.
Two weeks ago Derry travelled to second placed Highfield and looked to have done enough to secure a seventh straight victory when Richard McCarter scored an intercept edtry and then kicked the conversion with 30 seconds of the 80 minutes left to put Derry 27-22 ahead.
The restart looked a formality but some 15 minutes later, the game was still going with David Funston having been harshly yellow carded for a high tackle and the Munster men eventually got the converted try they needed to secure an improbable victory.
McMaster is keen to see a reaction to that result against Malone and admits he is still frustrated by the manner of the defeat.
“I have been involved with rugby for 40 years but in all that time, I have never been involved in a 2.30pm game that finished at 4.15pm!” conceded Derry coach.
“There were only two second half injuries, neither of which took more than one minute to sort so it is difficult to understand. Richard McCarter had been told as he was going to take the conversion there were only 30 seconds left.
“Even within those added minutes, to then lose David Funston to a yellow card for a high tackle less serious than one a Highfield player put in which only brought a penalty, was again frustrating. It is the consistency or lack of consistency with the decisions.
“We had played Highfield off the park in the first half and probably should have been ‘home and hosed’. The boys scored two fabulous tries in the first half and while we do feel like we had the win taken away from us to an extent, we will have a chance to address that in January.
“We won’t dwell on it. Saturday is a chance to put the game behind us and start to build some momentum again but it will not be an easy game against Malone.”
McMaster will be without David Graham, David Houston and Neil Burns who are all unavailable while Stephen Ferguson has decided to return to Dubai.
“Everybody is keen to get back on the horse as such after the Highfield game. We have put that behind us now though. This week is another tough test but it is a good barometer for us to gauge how we can cope against a team like Malone who are playing well a division above us.
“We will rotate a bit but probably within the squad of 20 or so. The Seconds have a big game of their own and we don’t want to weaken them by resting players, especially as we had a free week last week.
“The main focus remains on Seapoint next weekend and then the back-to-back AIL games against Rainey but the Malone game is a chance to build some momentum.”
Malone and Derry have been closely matched over the last two seasons in the Ulster League with each team having won once. The season before last Malone had the upper hand when they won by 27-19 with Mark Robinson, Adam Bratton and Peter Henderson scoring tries for Derry.
Derry defeated Malone narrowly last Christmas by 15-13pts with tries from ‘Man of the Match’ on the day Stephen Corr and David Ferguson with Andrew Semple kicking a penalty and a conversion. There was a unique occurrence in that fixture when three brothers played for both teams and all six of them came from Derry.
The Burns family were represented by John, Tom and Neil who played wing-forward, second row and full back respectively for Malone. The Duffy clan were represented by twins, Sam and Stephen, covering tight-head and loose-head prop while Philip came from the bench in the second half to play in the backs. Neil and John Burns transferred back home to Derry at the end of last season and are playing fantastic rugby this season while Tom is currently playing his rugby in England.