AIL Division 2C: City of Derry v Omagh (Saturday, Judges Road, 2.30pm)
City of Derry will welcome back David Ferguson and Simon Logue as they target a first AIL victory over the season in Saturday’s Ulster derby against Omagh at Judges Road (2.30pm).
Paul O’Kane’s men will go into the game as underdogs against the unbeaten Tyrone men but despite two frustrating injury time defeats in their opening two fixtures, there have been plenty of positives to build on.
“This weekend will be hammer and tongs but I’m looking forward to it,” revealed O’Kane, “They are changed times because realistically, Omagh are the clear favourites so it is up to us to get amongst them and cause the upset.
“With the way we play and the way Omagh play, there will be tries. Omagh play a similar style of rugby to Skerries but they are in a different place to where we are currently as regards their squad. They are 10 years down the track together now and their squad is twice the size of ours in terms of depth.
“By the same token, it’s 20 versus 20 on Saturday and I think our team is starting to play some great rugby, we just have to put it together for the full 80 minutes and take our chances.”
Even without that first AIL victory of the season, Derry have secured three bonus points in a division were only six points separate the top six from the bottom team and O’Kane reckons victory this weekend could be critical.
“It is about momentum,” he explained, “If you get beat on Saturday then you have a couple of weeks to stew over it but if you win, it turns those first two results into a positive rather than a negative.
“It is still very early doors in the league but everyone knows how big this game is, including Omagh. They have aspirations for promotion. We have aspirations of hitting the play-offs and I think we are playing some really good rugby at times, we are just not finishing teams off.
“We have to finish games out. I asked for feedback from the boys last week and the general consensus was we panicked a bit when we should have been in control. When we were chasing the game we looked fine but then we got out in front and we panicked. That’s just experience but we can learn from that. There is plenty to build on in those matches.”
Indeed O’Kane believes the true value of the three points picked up in defeat against Bruff and Skerries will only be known as the league season unfolds.
However with a two week break in fixtures following Saturday’s game, the Derry Head Coach is stressing the need for victory this time out.
”If we can get something out of this weekend’s game it will be a fairly positive start for us. A win completely changes the outlook going into the mini break. With the three points we already have, it would effectively be like having two wins.
“You could be sitting in the top four come Saturday night, or sitting rock bottom, things are that tight. It’s the way this league is and it will continue to be that way. From what I’ve seen there is minimal difference between all the AIL leagues.
”We were able to compete with the likes of Armagh so we know we can compete in 2C. The Skerries boys couldn’t get over the fact we finished with four 18 year olds playing
”There were big positives for us last week. Ross Harkin was superb coming off the bench and into hooker. In fact, we see him as an out and out hooker now. Jack Sayers, for an 18 year old tight head, the shift he put in was top notch. For him to be fighting his corner already, he is way ahead of the game.”