City of Derry aim to bridge 13 year Cup final gap against Enniskillen

City of Derry Head coach Richard McCarter speaks to his players.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2234GSCity of Derry Head coach Richard McCarter speaks to his players.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2234GS
City of Derry Head coach Richard McCarter speaks to his players. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2234GS
​THIRTEEN years on from City of Derry First XV's last appearance in a cup final, the 'Green and Black' face Enniskillen at Judges Road on Saturday (2.30pm) with a place in the Ulster Junior Cup decider up for grabs.

Current Head Coach Richard McCarter was in that Derry 15 which lost out 20-10 to Dungannon at snow covered Ravenhill in December 2010 and is only too aware just how hard come by cup final appearances are.

"The semi-final is massive for us," he admitted, "I was telling the boys this week about that game, the last time our First XV featured in a cup final of any description."It's fair to say cup final appearances are few and far between for the club which shows the important and significance of this semi-final. I want the boys to really look forward to it and relish the opportunity on Saturday but not to take it for granted because some may never feature in a semi-final again. It's a big game for everybody but I want them to enjoy it."

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The omens are good for Derry going into the game, McCarter's side having beaten Enniskillen twice in the league already this season but the Fermanagh club's 2023 cup pedigree makes them dangerous opposition.

"We've beaten Enniskillen twice in the league which shows we are capable of winning this game but at the same time their cup form has been really impressive this season," added the Derry coach.

"They have been involved in three cup competitions this season and were beaten finalists in the All Ireland Junior Cup, beaten semi-finalists in the Towns Cup - both to Clogher Valley - and they are obviously now in the Junior Cup semi-final."They're scoring a lot of points as well and, just like ourselves, their end of season form has been very good so it's going to be a tough game."I wouldn't read too much into either of the league results. We know we're capable of beating them but we know we're capable of beating anybody if we get things right and that's what we are trying to highlight to the lads. If we stay calm and try to be accurate, in these types of knock-out games whoever makes the least amount of mistakes and takes their chances will win. You get nothing for losing by less than seven or scoring 10 extra tries. It's about winning the game so if we win 3-0 or 6-3 I'll take that."

A four week gap since the qualifying groups ended has been challenging for all four semi-finalists.

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"We've tried to manage it as best we can over the last few weeks. We're really conscious of not having the boys burnt out, not just physically but mentally thinking about it. At the same time we don't want to be under prepared so we have tried to get the balance right but it is difficult when you've three or four weeks to fill."The one benefit is that had it been a coup[le of weeks back there are probably three or four who may not have made the game but we have pretty much every one back and available. That's a big positive."

So what's the difference between preparing for a semi-final as a Head Coach compared to a player?

"It is way worse as a coach. I think I'm actually run through all the thinking I've done about it," laughed McCarter, "No, when you're a player you concentrate on yourself and what you can control. As a player I always had a fear of losing even though I used to love the big occasion. As a coach I'm trying to get away from that and I really want the players to enjoy this game, I genuinely mean that. I don't want them to be worrying about what might happen, I want them to play the game in front of them and play for the boys around them."This time last season we were heading to Clonmel for that relegation battle so that gives perspective. This isn't the same. This is a cup semi-final we have done well to get to and deserve to be in. This is to be relished and enjoyed. We deserve to be here and I want us to kick on and play with freedom."