CITY of Derry Head Coach Mark Nicholl does not want to look any further than securing a top four finish despite his side’s late surge up the AIL Division 2A table.
Michael Wilson reports
When the All Ireland League resumed on January 19th, Derry lay ninth but Saturday’s impressive 35-22 victory over Banbridge moved the Judges Road men into sixth, only one point behind the Co. Down side who lie fourth. Indeed, the locals are now only nine points behind leaders Corinthians but with only five games remaining time is not on Derry’s side with regards to a top two finish, not that Nicholl is about to get carried away with his team’s recent run.
“We were delighted, the boys played well and deserved the win,” said the Derry Head coach, “Banbridge got off to a good start with the intercepted try but I was always confident we would get back into the game. We were a bit anxious with our off-loading and were forcing things a bit, we needed time to settle into the game and get out patterns going. Once we did we kicked on and it was a very good five points.
“The 20 minutes before half-time and the 20 minutes after half-time were the crucial periods. We put the game to bed and it is a result that keeps us on course for the top four. We’re lying sixth but we don’t want to be looking too far ahead. At the start of the season we set ourselves the goal of top four and that remains the case. We are focusing now on Highfield next week. That will be a tough game, despite their defeat at the weekend. They have a big strong pack are a decent side but we want to keep winning matches and see where that takes us.”
Saturday’s victory was Derry’s third AIL bonus point win in succession which included starring roles for young centre Chris Barber and influential out-half Richard McCarter who was back to his back after recent injury trouble.
“Richard McCarter was superb. He controlled the game for us and his kicking was excellent,” added Nicholl, “He scored a nice try to cap a great display but everyone played their part. Chris Barber never seems to have a bad game and he was brilliant again. His two tries are a nice way to celebrate his birthday but he has so much potential.
“We knew Ian Porter was Banbridge’s key man but we didn’t have any specific plan for him. We wanted to put pressure on their whole team. If you keep the pressure on any team, the mistakes will come and when they did we took advantage.
“We never lost faith at 10-0 that we could get back into the match and go on to win it but now we have to move on and prepare for Highfield.”