City of Derry count cost of injury crisis as Omagh cruise at Judges Road
Ulster Rugby Premiership Division 2
City of Derry 0, Omagh 50
It says everything about the current capacity of the City of Derry treatment room that the scoreline was the least of Richard McCarter's worries on a day the home side went down by 50 points to Omagh at Judges Road.
McCarter must have taken a sledge hammer to a hall of mirrors to earn the run of luck his side are enduring as they face into next weekend's All Ireland League Division 2C opener away to Tullamore. With an injury list the length this modest word count wouldn't allow to include, a clean bill of health was the priority even ahead of victory but just to compound matters, Derry lost both full back Neil Burns and scrum-half Jamie Millar during the course of what was a forgettable 80 odd minutes for the 'Green and Black'.
Millar should make next week's game after being withdrawn as a precaution but Burns' hamstring pull three minutes before half-time is likely to rob McCarter of yet another experienced member of a back line that has been decimated over the last month.
Saturday's was another makeshift selection and for al the honest endeavour and heart, which never wavered throughout, the distinct lack of penetration and genuine pace was apparent meaning it will be a waiting game now for McCarter and his coaching staff ahead of Tullamore.
"Neil's looks like hamstring injury. It was more precautionary but with any hamstring injury tweak, you're normally looking at a couple of weeks at least," lamented McCarter, "With Jamie, his was more of an impact injury, a dead leg, and we're hoping that's not as bad and he's available for next weekend.
"The result didn't really matter today, what we wanted more than anything was a clean bill of health but we have got neither so it has been a double blow for us."
If McCarter ever needed a crash course in the stresses of management, his first couple of months in the job have hardly been a great advert for job satisfaction. Navigating the Covid scarred rugby landscape is difficult enough, doing it with half your senior squad out of action is bordering on mission impossible.
Ironically, Derry were the better team for the opening half hour on Saturday. The team's inexperience was highlighted as early as the opening minute though when they coughed up possession to present Omagh with a break that Oscar Nelson finished off and Kyle Beattie converted.
Seven down, Derry were not deterred and proceeded to completely dominate the next 30 minutes with second rows William Brown and Joshua Hannah impressing in the pack and emergency centre Tiernan Thornton looking like a natural in the role.
For all the possession and territory though, Derry rarely threatened to breach the visitors' line and the home side were punished via a Beattie penalty and the first of a hat-trick of tries from winger Ryan Mitchell who won a fort race with home full-back Burns.
Even a yellow card for Beattie for checking Jamie Millar's run on a Derry break failed to spark a revival and the half ended on a sour note with Burns' injury and a second yellow card, this time for Derry's Craig Huey.
The second half was one to forget. With Millar forced off within minutes of the restart it became only a matter of Omagh's winning margin as further tries from Mitchell (2), Adam Longwell and two from substitute eased Omagh home with plenty to spare.
Derry's season was never going to be defined by three Ulster League games but it could be defined by injury. The real business gets underway next week and McCarter will have his physio on double time to ensure his squad is in a position to compete.
City of Derry: Adam Marley, Cathal Cregan, Troy Wilson, William Brown, Joshua Hannah, Craig Huey, Jake McDevitt, David Brown, Jamie Millar, Alex McDonnell, Jack Beattie, Tiernan Thornton, Paddy Blenerhassett, Michael Hatrick, Neil Burns. (Replacements) Chris Shields, Dara Gill, Cain McColgan, Aaron Deery, Ross McLaughlin.
Omagh: David Braden, Adam Pollock, Simon Creane, Jamie Sproule, Robbie Sproule, Adam Longwell, Scott WIlson, Matt Clyde, Taine Lagan, Kyle Beattie, Ryan Mitchell, Deane Kane, Scott Barr, Scott Ballantine, Oscar Nelson. (Replacements) Richard Hemphill, Philip Ewing, Joseph Duff, Lloyd Kane, Scott Elliott.
Referee: Henry Richmond