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All Ireland Qualifiers: Derry must raise game

It's just like old times for Derry as they again set about making their way through the qualifiers.

Somehow they have never looked comfortable in the hurly burly of the Championship. But with the backdoor system it’s like to the manor born.

And who’s to say that had they beaten Armagh at Celtic Park they too would have shipped a heavy defeat at the hands of resurgent Monaghan.

Beating Carlow in the opening round of the qualifiers wasn’t without its share of drama, but that was off the field.

Paddy Bradley, their talisman for so long, promptly announced his retirement after being left out of the side to face Carlow.

Tomorrow Westmeath stand in the way of the Oak Leaf men and further progress through the back door.

Kevin McGuckin’s return at full back is a timely boost, but Fergal Doherty is again missing through injury and yet in his absence Joe Diver and Enda Muldoon (pictured) make a formidable midfield pairing.

Muldoon’s form last time out against Carlow made you realise just how massive a loss he was in the first half of the season.

Derry weren’t overly impressive in beating Carlow last time out and they must step up on that performance if their season isn’t to come to an abrupt halt in Mullingar.

Captain Gerard O’Kane resumes to his best position of centre half back with Barry McGoldrick moving to the half forward line.

Derry’s recent record against Westmeath is impressive enough, but manager Damian Cassidy won’t read too much into those results.

It’s also worth remembering that two seasons ago Tyrone almost came unstuck against Westmeath in Omagh before going on to claim a third All Ireland title.

Westmeath’s Michael Ennis reckons the loss of both Fergal Doherty and Paddy Bradley from the Derry side just might make all the difference.

Westmeath will be hard to beat and might just prevail.

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