CITY of Derry captain David Funston will line out at open-side flanker as Head Coach Mark Nicholl examines his All Ireland League options during tomorrow’s Ulster Senior League clash with Armagh at Judges Road (kick-off 2.30pm).
Michael Wilson reports
Funston, who normally lines out at centre, follows in the footstep of Adam Bratton who has already made a very successful switch to wing-forward from his normal role along the back-line or on the wing and it will be interesting to see how the two operate.
Experimentation is very much the order of the day for Derry following last weekend’s excellent AIL victory over Seapoint in Dublin with a number of players who have been carrying injuries given time to recover. Funston’s move means a new centre pairing of former Coleraine players Adam Parke and Chris Barber, the latter of which put in a ‘man of the match’ display at full-back in last week’s win. His move is facilitated by a welcome return to First XV action for Peter Henderson who has missed both All Ireland games with a badly dislocated finger.
There is further good news for Nicholl as Richard Baird returns at No. 8 following a shoulder injury which has also kept him out of the opening AIL fixtures and Sam Duffy returns to the bench for the first time this season after undergoing a hernia operation during the close season. Other changes see former YMCA player David Graham start on the wing with Richard Peoples coming in to replace Richard McCarter at out-half. Two former Coleraine players, Steven Jefferson and David Ferguson, join Gareth Beattie in a new look front row.
Tomorrow’s fixture is the first of back-to-back meetings between two teams who are well known to each other from recent tussles in the Junior League. Since those days Armagh have followed Derry back into the AIL and have started their Division 2B campaign well with a 13-13 draw away at Clonakilty followed by last week’s emphatic 45-7 home victory over Sunday’s Well. That result left them in fifth position on seven points, three behind the 2B leaders Boyne.
Derry lead the way in the Ulster Senior League with five wins from five and currently sit three points clear of Malone while Armagh have struggled with only two victories from their five games.