City of Derry can bounce back from AIL relegation claims coach Richard McCarter

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter admits the club may require a period of reflection following relegation from senior rugby, though he's confident they can quickly bounce back if the players stick together.

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter speaking to his players at half-time at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon. (Photo: George Sweeney)
City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter speaking to his players at half-time at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Derry's drop into Ulster Qualifying One was confirmed despite Saturday's 17-8 second leg play-off victory over Clonmel, the Tipperary men staying up by virtue of a 41-34 aggregate victory. While devastated at losing their All Ireland League status, McCarter says there's enough talent within the club to ensure they recover.

"It is devastating," conceded the former out-half, "It's been an emotional week but ultimately relegation didn't boil down to today, it didn't boil down to one play-off. We were just a few points short all season and that's due to inconsistency. The boys gave it absolutely everything today.

"I couldn't have ask for anything more. Conditions were terrible, we won the game but we had left ourselves with too much to do from last week.

"It always feels very tough in the immediate aftermath but I said to the lads before the game that no matter what happens, the world will keep turning. It might not feel like that right now but again, we will just prepare for next season like we have prepared for any other year. It's just a different level that we are playing at. We may have to reassess some of the things within the club to make sure that things don't continue to slide but certainly, with that group of players, if we can all stick together - which is very important - then I don't see too many issues."

Derry appeared on course for an unlikely escape when a textbook first half saw them lead a14-man Clonmel 10-0 at the break before an early second half try for the visitors put a different complexion on proceedings and left Derry with a mountain to climb.

"We were (right on course) and had someone told me before the game that we would be 10-0 up at half-time and Clonmel would be down to 14 men, I'd have snapped your hand off for it," added McCarter, "Unfortunately for us, we couldn't capitalise on it and a very poor start to the second half has cost us but we said in the changing room afterwards, we don't want any finger pointing. It didn't come down to just today, it was about all season. The table doesn't lie. Ultimately we haven't been good enough but now we have to look forward."

Neither was McCarter attributing any blame to referee Padraic Reidy's curious decision to end the game without playing any injury time and immediately after Joel Smyth's late try had brought City of Derry to within one converted try of safety.

"The referee just said to me he was happy with his timing. I spoke to him at the end of the game but once he's made his decision, there is no real point crying about it. Yes, it is a bit of a frustration but it is what it is," explained the Derry coach who said he will take a bit of time before turning the focus to next season.

"We will all take a bit of time. It's been a very draining season to be honest and all of us - players, coaches, everyone - we need to step away from it for a few weeks and just put our feet up.

"Ultimately, when the dust settles we will prepare for next season like every other season and we will go out and try to win Q1. In many ways, as I said during the week, there are some benefits to it, not that I want to go into that right now, but it will give us an opportunity to reassess how we blood in young players though that's for another day.

"Even in relegation I still stand by what I have said all season, this team can give anybody a game. We have proven that fact at different stages this season but consistency has been our main downfall all year through injuries, Covid and unavailability.

"We have to look forward. It may not feel like it right now, but there will be better days ahead for the club."

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City of Derry relegated after victory over Clonmel not enough to retain All Irel...