Momentum key as City of Derry welcome Bangor for AIL Ulster derby

AIL Division 2C: CIty of Derry v Bangor (Sat, Judges Road, 2.30pm)
City of Derry Head Coach, Richard McCarter. (Pic: George Sweeney)City of Derry Head Coach, Richard McCarter. (Pic: George Sweeney)
City of Derry Head Coach, Richard McCarter. (Pic: George Sweeney)

City of Derry Head coach Richard McCarter is hoping last week’s All Ireland League break won’t have cost his side momentum when they welcome Ulster rivals, Bangor, to Judges Road for an intriguing Division 2C clash on Saturday.

McCarter’s first victory as Derry coach was also his side’s first win of the season as they defeated Sunday’s Well in Cork two weeks ago to lift themselves into fifth, and he admits the week off was something of a mixed blessing for the ‘Green and Black’.

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“It’s quite a strange feeling to be going in to a game off the back of a win,” laughed McCarter. “I was asked by someone if last week’s break would be good for us or work against us. At the time I thought it would be good because it allowed some of the injured lads to recover but I’m hoping now that we haven’t lost the momentum we built through the Sunday’s Well win.

“We want to keep riding the crest of that wave for as long as possible so I’m hoping the down week hasn’t cost us anything. We had a good training session on Tuesday, hopefully the same again Thursday and that should get us well prepared for Saturday.

“When you lose you want to play as soon as possible to make amends but after the win in Cork we felt we could go into the break with a bit of peace of mind and look to kick on after it. We used the week wisely and it has been beneficial, because we have got some lads back, but we do want to strike while the iron is hot and make it worthwhile.”

Those returning include back Neil Burns, David Lapsley and the mercurial Simon Logue who should offset the absence of Callum O’Hagan and Paddy Blenerhassett while McCarter’s pack should also be at full strength.

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“We’re not in bad shape,” added McCarter. “We’ve most of the forwards back available and while we are losing Paddy and Callum O’Hagan, we should have Neil, hopefully Simon Logue and Davy back in. The squad is looking healthy enough at the minute so, touch wood, there are no dramas before the weekend.”

McCarter won’t need any introduction to his Co. Down opposition this weekend, the two teams being in regular combat in both AIL and Ulster Conference, the latest of which was an Ulster League humbling for Derry when Bangor ran out 44-7 winners at the start of September. McCarter, though, isn’t reading too much into that result.

“We know each other very well,” he admitted. “I’m not reading very much into the Ulster League meeting against them because we were just poor in the first half. We weren’t ourselves at all and I would say we learned more about them than they would have about us that day which is probably a good thing.

“We made a conscious decision to separate the Ulster League from the AIL and I think so far we’ve definitely improved our performances in the AIL but we are going to need a big one this week.

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“We know Bangor are a good side, they’re confident and have been consistent since the start of the season so we’re going to have to be at our best if we want anything from the game. I’m hoping we can cause them a surprise or two because as I say, they won’t have learned anything about our team from the last game.

“They were very good but we were very poor. They capitalised on a lot of our mistakes so we will see how good they are if we can limit our mistakes this weekend and make them work for their points as opposed to gifting them as we did in the Ulster League. I was impressed but hopefully a different Derry will show up this weekend.

“It is all the obvious stuff from our point of view, we have to start well, we have to play a simple game-plan, stay in the game as long as possible and cause them problems. We have to fight for our lives like we did down in Cork.”