City of Derry facing AIL 'Cup Final' against Bangor as AIL moves to business end of season

AIL Division 2C: Bangor v City of Derry (Upritchard Park, Saturday, 2.30pm)

City of Derry’s bid to avoid the AIL Division 2C relegation play-off faces an Ulster derby test with Head Coach Richard McCarter admitting Saturday’s Upritchard Park clash is the first of four ‘cup finals’ for his side.

Last week’s morale boosting 31-24 victory over Bruff catapulted the ‘Green and Black’ up two places to eighth in the table, one clear of the bottom two spots which will play off at the end of the season. It’s a welcome upward trajectory but McCarter acknowledges the promotion chasing Co. Down club will be another step up for his squad this weekend.

“Bangor are gunning for promotion so it will be a very difficult test for us,” explained McCarter, “They are going well this year but our mindset cannot change no matter who we’re playing. We have to go up there with positivity and have a crack at them. There’s no other way. We have to leave everything out on the pitch in every game now, it’s all or nothing.

City of Derry’s Ross McLaughlin fights off a chasing Bruff pack at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2208GS – 113

“The games keep getting bigger but we told the boys that after the Bruff games. Last week was realistically a cup final for us in that we couldn’t afford to lose it but we’re going to have four more ‘cup finals’ between now and the end of the season.

“I don’t think we will win every match but we have to rack up as many points as possible because there are certain to be a few twists and turns yet over the course of the run in.

“It’s the same scenario for every other team. I have been constantly saying this year how every game is a tough one but every game is a tough game for every team in this division. We just have to concentrate on what we can do. If we come off our pitch having done our job and other results have gone our way then happy days, but first we have to get our own ducks in a row.”

Derry remain without key forward Stephen Corr while CJ Cregan picked up a shoulder injury scoring a try last week and is likely to miss out. Jordan Mealiff should recover from a dead leg suffered against Bruff to face a side Derry were unlucky to lose 16-23 against back in October. A second half yellow card for Sam Duffy proved pivotal that day as Duffy’s absence helped hand the Co. Down club get the upper hand in what had been a tightly fought forward contest, notably between two evenly matched scrums.

“We played very well against Bangor at home,” added McCarter, “They are a good team but we were winning before Sam picked up a yellow card. Bangor scored, I think, 14 pints during the 10 minutes Sam was off.

“They have a very good pack and a really strong set-piece with their scrum but we always seem to cope quite well with that because we have a decent scrum ourselves. If we can get parity in the scrum then I think we have enough in the backs and in the loose to cause them problems, but they will know that.

“After that last game, their Head Coach admitted they had been very fortunate to get the win so we can take confidence from that performance and from last week’s win. This is probably another game we are not expected to take anything from so we can go up and express ourselves and hopefully play with relative freedom.”

Derry’s defeat of Bruff last week pulled the Limerick side into the relegation mix and made it a four way battle to avoid those two play-off places. Only four points currently separate that bottom quartet with all clubs facing tricky looking assignments this weekend. As well as Derry’s trip to Bangor, bottom side Sunday’s Well host Omagh while second from bottom Clonmel are away to promotion chasing Skerries and Bruff meet Midleton.

“There are no easy matches in this division. Every team is capable of taking points off each other. Last week we asked the lads to be in all for 80 minutes and they were but we’ll need the same application this week.”

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