Backs blow as ‘DG’ ruled out for City of Derry’s AIL opener

All Ireland League, Division 2C: Tullamore v City of Derry

Davy Graham will be a big loss for City of Derry's AIL opener against Tullamore.
Davy Graham will be a big loss for City of Derry's AIL opener against Tullamore.

CIty of Derry have suffered another late injury blow ahead of their All Ireland League Division 2C opener in Tullamore on Saturday (2.30pm) with the news that key back Davy Graham has been ruled out.

After seeing his squad decimated through the Ulster League, McCarter had been expected to welcome back his explosive centre as well as Matthew Orr and Phil Duffy which would have significantly increased his options along the back line with Paddy Blenerhassett and Ross McLaughlin freed up to add a bit more punch to both wings.

However, at last night's (Thursday's) final training session before the squad make the trip to Spollanstown today (Friday), Grahgam suffered a recurrence of the hamstring that has curtailed his season to date. The news is a major blow for Derry and adds to a lengthy injury list which is testing the First XV squad to its limits

With full-back Neil Burns added to the club’s walking wounded in last Saturday’s Ulster League defeat to Omagh, McCarter was pleased to see the injury that forced the withdrawal of scrum-half Jamie Millar in the same game prove not as bad as first feared and he will travel with the squad to County Offaly on Friday.

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“To be honest I don’t know much about Tullamore,” he added, “I’ve seen a couple of their results from the Leinster league, the equivalent of our Ulster League, and they have had a couple of decent victories but it’s very difficult to judge anything from that. You’ve no way of knowing how strong the opposition was or how they were fixed themselves in those games, though the one thing we’re sure of is that it will be a tough game.

“They have a big mobile pack and their backs were fairly useful the last time we met so it will be a tough opener.”

Derry’s AIL record on the road has been poor over recent seasons, a statistic McCarter would love to see his team improve this season, starting this weekend.

“Away from home tends to be bonus territory in the AIL but there’s a danger with that sort of thinking because it places all the pressure on the home games. With pressure comes expectancy and then when things aren’t going according to plan, even more pressure comes on the players.

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“I’m hoping we can use the reverse of that this week because all the pressure will be on Tullamore. They’ll have a big, expectant crowd and if we can start strongly and quieten them down, and maybe make them doubt themselves, who knows what could happen.

“Teams are expected to win home games but I would like to change that because we have to start winning on the road if we want to improve.”

McCarter is refusing to look too far ahead this season and won’t be setting any specific targets but wants his players to view the All Ireland competition as an opportunity to restart the season.

“The All Ireland is a different kettle of fish, especially away from home. It’s notoriously difficult to get results on the road but we just have to see it as fresh start. Yes, our preparations have been far from ideal over this last four to six weeks but it is what it is, we have to draw a line under that now.

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“We have to treat this as a fresh start to the season and hopefully with the likes of Davy coming back, it gives us some added firepower and momentum. The pressure is on Tullamore. They are the home team but we have to feed off that as well. If we can quiet them down in the first 15 to 20 minutes and get them a bit jittery, that will be the aim.”

With a feel good factor back after the club this week welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Judges Road as part of their visit to Derry, victory at Tullamore would represent the perfect end to a big week for City of Derry.

“We have to approach the AIL game by game, so we will worry about this week, see how we do and then we will look at Enniscorthy next week,” added McCarter, “Obviously we would love to win the league but I don’t know if that is possible; we want to finish as high up the table as possible.... all the normal clichés you hear before the start of a season but we have to take it game at a time and see where it takes us.

“I see this as a fresh start as well. Even had we won those four games in the Ulster League, it really wouldn’t have mattered a jot at the end of the season because that’s not what we will be judged on.

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“We have reinforced to the players that our season is about from here on in. We had good numbers at training on Tuesday and the attitude was good from everyone so hopefully this can be a springboard to kick on and build something.”