Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

All Ireland Football Championship: Derry still united, says manager Cassidy

Derry manager Damian Cassidy
Derry manager Damian Cassidy

With the Championship heat being stepped up considerably, more managers are coming under increasing pressure not just to plot credibility for their sides but to retain their own positions.

Already John Joe Doherty (Donegal), John O’Mahoney (Mayo), and Noel Dunning (London) have fallen on their swords with Mick O’Dwyer expected to part company with Wicklow shortly.

Derry boss Damian Cassidy is among those currently battling to improve their stature within the sport and if squad defections, injuries and loss of form on the part of some players are contriving to render his task that little more difficult, then he has been provided with two substantial helpings of comfort in the build-up to Saturday’s All Ireland qualifier against Westmeath in Mullingar.

Enda Muldoon, who has missed the best part of 18 months action because of three metatarsal fractures, and Charlie Kielt, just recently restored to the Oak Leaf side, have suddenly rediscovered the form that initially made them two of Cassidy’s most coveted assets.

It was in the opening round qualifier win over Carlow that 30-year-old Muldoon came out from the full-forward position to bolster the midfield to such an extent that Derry dominated the second-half while Kielt, who had been linked with a career in Australian Rules, turned in a majestic performance at wing-half-back in the same game.

Now Cassidy is likely to start Muldoon at midfield against Westmeath with Joe Diver as his partner in the hope that this duo can compensate for the absence of the injured Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley. James Kielt started alongside Diver in the engine-room against Carlow but is now likely to be used in the attack where Eoin Bradley, Mark Lynch and Declan Mullan should also feature.

Certain to see game time against Westmeath is Cathal McKeever who was outstanding at wing-forward at Dr Cullen Park while the defence will be bolstered by the return of Kevin McGuckin and the availability of a fully-fit Gerard O’Kane who was clearly hampered by injury against Carlow. Manager Cassidy, aware that there have been suggestions of disharmony in the camp, has moved to dispel what he brands “malicious gossip.”

He said; “Kevin McGuckin is very much involved with our squad and we are very focused on Saturday’s game. We have heard reports that players have been leaving us, but that is just malicious gossip.

“Westmeath are a decent side and they will have home advantage. We have had a number of injuries lately but we have to go with what we have.”

Meanwhile, Derry chairman John Keenan has hailed the spectacular success of last weekend’s All Ireland U14 Feile. Derry city was transformed into a sea of colour as dozens of teams took parting a massive parade to Celtic Park which was the fulcrum of an action-packed weekend that saw scores of matches played.

“It was a magnificent occasion which reflects great credit on all the clubs in Derry. A phenomenal amount of work went into the event,” said Keenan.

Many GAA luminaries including Mickey Harte and Tony Davis (Cork) attended and the overall winners were Na Fianna (Dublin).

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