City of Derry face injury crisis as Omagh visit for Ulster League clash

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter admits a clean bill of health is more important than victory in this weekend’s final Ulster League clash before the All Ireland League kicks off next weekend at Tullamore.

By Michael Wilson
Friday, 24th September 2021, 7:00 am
City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter (Photo: George Sweeney)
City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter (Photo: George Sweeney)

The ‘Green and Black’ entertain Omagh at Judges Road on Saturday and while McCarter is targeting a morale boosting first victory of the season to take into the AIL, the one thing his decimated squad can ill afford is to pick up any more injuries. Indeed it has been a baptism of fire for McCarter since being appointed with injury and unavailability inhibiting each of their three Ulster League games to date. Saturday will be no different with names like Simon Logue, David Lapsley and Davy Graham all missing from the back line.

Such is the extent of the injury crisis that McCarter is likely to shift Tiernan Thornton from the pack to play centre for what will be the club’s fourth different combination in four games, far from ideal preparation for next week’s big AIL kick-off. Cody Laverty is the latest to be ruled out and with the club’s Second XV having had to cancel their last two fixture due to a lack of available players, McCarter admits it has a difficult few weeks.

“Things have been very difficult on the injury front, in truth our squad has been decimated. In truth anything that can go wrong on the injury front is going wrong at the minute,” admitted the Derry coach.

“It is genuinely getting to the point where I am having to consider putting on my boots again and that’s the last things I want to be doing. I would do anything to avoid doing that but at the moment we are an injury away from running out of players.

“Honestly, a clean bill of health is the most important thing this weekend. Of course we want to win the game and will be doing everything to make sure we do that but the last thing we need is to win this week but pick up another one or two injuries.

“At the end of the day Saturday’s result doesn’t really matter, as much as we would love to win it because we want to start picking up results to give us a real boost, not just the senior squad but the club as a whole. We’ve had to cancel the Seconds fixtures for the last two weeks and this week is also under threat because we simply don’t have the players which is unheard of at this time of the year.

“If we could get a result on Saturday it would be a massive lift to everyone at the club, not just the players, because it has been pretty tough going.”

Despite some promising performances in the Ulster League, Derry have yet to win and he knows Omagh will be another tough test this weekend.

“I don’t know too much about Omagh this season,” adds McCarter, “I know that they had their own struggles earlier on in the season with forwards I think, but they picked up a couple of good results to be fair. They have beaten both Ballymena and Dungannon this year.

“Look, we have played them enough this year to realise that no matter what their form is like it will be tough, it will be a tight game. They have a good, solid pack, they have dangerous backs so we have to be on it on Saturday.

“I’m not sure what way they will play it because some teams will be resting a few players in preparation for next week’s AIL start and others could go full strength and seek a win going into it. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury to chose but it will be interesting to see what way they go.”

The injury crisis means forward planning for the AIL has been all but ruled out with the Derry Head Coach admitting it will be a simplified approach going from game to game in the early stages of the season.

“From a playing perspective we really could do with winning against Omagh just to give us a major boost and start building momentum but it is really difficult with an ever changing back line.

“We can’t really expect someone like Tiernan to come in at centre and just slip in seamlessly, that’s unrealistic. We have to be realistic with things like that and really simplify our game-plan this weekend and do the best we can under the circumstances.

“We haven’t been able to field anything like a settled team which has been very frustrating. It means we haven’t been able to build patterns of play, develop combination, things like that. It has basically been about getting seven backs on the pitch through this Ulster league. We haven’t played the same centre combination two weeks in a row and that’s not because we don’t have good players, we have loads of options we wanted to look at, injuries and players missing means we simply haven’t had the chance.

“It is going to be difficult in the AIL because we won’t have had the level of preparation we would have liked and that’s why we will have to take it back to basics and go one game at a time. One thing the Ulster like has shown us this pre-season is you literally don’t know what is around the corner and what setbacks you will have to deal with.

“We will deal with Omagh this week and then it’s time to think about Tullamore. It would be foolish of us to look ahead this week but we had hoped these four games would give us a bit of a confidence boost and build momentum but it’s been badly disrupted.

“We have done okay against the likes of Ballymena and Dungannon, two teams from higher AIL divisions than us, but I just hope these injures don’t set us back. We’ll get the boys geared up for it and we’ll be chomping at the bit, determined to get on that is next Friday to prove a point.”

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