Nicholl looking to strengthen as Derry face final AIL game

City of Derry coach Mark Nicholl. (3010PG36)
City of Derry coach Mark Nicholl. (3010PG36)

CITY of Derry Head Coach Mark Nicholl will go into tomorrow’s final AIL Division 2A fixture against Old Crescent in Limerick with one eye already on next season’s campaign (k.o. 2.30pm)

Michael Wilson reports

The Judges Road men surrently sit fifth, one place off their season’s target of a top four finish with Banbridge and U.C.C. immediately above them. The Co. Down men have an easy looking finale against already relegated DLSP at Rifle Park leaving Cork’s tricky trip to table topping Terenure as Derry’s best hope of moving up a place.

It won’t be easy though as Nicholl travels to Rosbrien without a host of First XV starters. Richard Barid and Davy Houston miss out because of work commitments while Sam Duffy (back), William McCleery (concussion) and Richard Peoples are ruled out through injury. Stephen Ferguson and Richard McCarter are both currently suffering from flu and even if they make the trip, they are likely to be well short of full fitness.

“It is not ideal, no, but we will still be travelling with a good enough squad to win the game,” explained Nicholl.

“Any time you go to Munster you need to have your best team out and while we might be slightly short of ball carriers, the boys are in good spirirts and looking forward to the game. Old Crescent have a good pack and it will be a tough game.

“Although they are down the table a bit (13th), they have drawn three matches over the course of the season and had they manged to win those, I think it would have lifted them up something like four places so they are in something of a false position.”

Nicholl admitted his side have little chance of catching Banbridge but said University College Cork will find their trip to Terenure very difficult.

“Banbridge should win comfortably with DLSP already down and are probably looking at a third place finish but we have to be ready to take advantage if UCC slip. Terenure will be out to win the title so that is a very tough game but we can only look at it if we win our game.”

A date for the club’s final Ulster League fixture against Ballymena, which should have been finalised midweek, had yet to be confirmed by the time of going to press but Nicholl admitting he is already looking at strengthening his squad in the close season.

“At the start of the season, I didn’t think we were quite ready for promotion, I thought we were maybe three or four players short and I still think that. We are already looking at players who could strengthen our panel.

“There was that spell before Christmas when we lost a couple of games but even then the performances, with the exception of Terenure away, were very good. Top Four was the objective for this season and we can still achieve that but if we can get the three or four players in we are hoping to then I’m confient we would be in a position to challenge for promotion next season,” he added.