Relegation play-off isn't over for us says defiant City of Derry coach Richard McCarter

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter is adamant their relegation play-off tie is far from over despite a disappointing 33-17 first leg defeat against Clonmel in Ardgaoithe on Saturday.

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter whose side need to defeat Clonmel by 17 points in Saturday's second leg of the Division 2C relegation play-off. (Photo: George Sweeney)
City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter whose side need to defeat Clonmel by 17 points in Saturday's second leg of the Division 2C relegation play-off. (Photo: George Sweeney)

The result means Derry must win by 17 points or more in Saturday’s second leg at Judges Road to retain their senior status, a feat even McCarter admits is a tall order but he stressed no one is about to throw in the towel.

“We have to be positive,” explained the Derry Head Coach, “There’s no denying that it’s been difficult over the past couple of days but that alone will inspire the boys to set the record straight. We’re lucky to have a second bite because had this been any other year and only one leg, that would have been it over on Saturday. We got this opportunity now and we have to make it count.

“The boys were pretty low after Saturday’s game. It was as quiet as I’ve seen them on the bus on the way back. I think we knew we hadn’t performed when we needed to but if there’s a silver lining it is that we have a second chance.

“There is a lot of hunger to make up for Saturday and hopefully if there’s a good crowd at Judges Road that will spur the boys on even more and give the players a lift. Stranger things have happened and I’ve no doubt we are more than capable of turning it around. It’s down to us, down to how we settle and how we defend more than anything.”

McCarter’s frustration were understandable given Derry looked well on course at half-time in Clonmel where they led their hosts 12-17 after brilliantly recovering from 12-0 down despite the loss of Simon Logue to a hamstring injury after 20 minutes.

Davy Graham and Paddy Blenerhassett were the Derry try scorers but the green and black game-plan came off the rails in the second period as Graham was yellow carded and Clonmel hit back with three tries to give themselves a considerable cushion going into the second leg.

“We actually started the second half very well,” explained McCarter, “We got into their ‘22 a couple of times, we were playing into a bit of a breeze, but we gave away two stupid penalties which allowed Clonmel to clear and then, to be honest, after that we lost our way a bit. We went back to how we’d been playing before our recent good run of form - making unforced errors, defensively we were shooting out of the line and letting them through. In the last 10 minutes they scored those couple of tries which could prove pretty costly for us.

“We had aspirations to win the game on Saturday. We had a bad start but responded really well and at 17-12 at half-time we felt it was really important to keep the scoreboard ticking over. It was one of those games, obviously we wanted to win, but had it been only a few points margin of defeat, we’d still be pretty confident but 16 points has made it an uphill task.

“That said, it’s only half-time and we have to be really positive this week and just throw everything at them in the second leg.”

McCarter admitted the loss of Logue, alongside the absent Neil Burns, is a blow but he has faith in his players who he believes will have a burning desire to upset the odds.

“Losing Logie is a blow to us but Ross McLaughlin will be back in at 15 and he will cause Clonmel problems,” added the Derry coach.

“I still have hope, this isn’t over. Clonmel played well and deserved it but we have to limit our errors because that gave them a foot up. If we can get a fast start and maybe an early score that will settle us and who knows, they might get a bit jittery but we have to give it everything.”

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