Derry have discovered an unusual ally in their bid to regain credibility following their Ulster final defeat to Donegal.
The Central Competitions Control Committee has provided the perfect Oak Leaf pick-me-up for Saturday’s round four qualifier clash against Kildare by fixing the game for Croke Park.
Derry spokesman Chris McCann reveals that spirits “lifted considerably” when they discovered they are to get an unexpected outing at Headquarters.
“We knew that the game would be taking place at a neutral venue and we thought it might be somewhere like Cavan or maybe Navan. To be going to Croke Park is a real boost and this is proving a big factor in bolstering morale after that Ulster final loss,” points out McCann.
Several of the Derry players including P J McCloskey, Danny Devlin, Michael Friel, Emmet McGuckin, Dermot McBride and Michael Bateson have never played senior championship football at Croke Park.
“Even our more experienced players like Mark Lynch, Enda Muldoon, Gerard O’Kane (pictured) and Conleith Gilligan, all of whom have played there before, are very excited at the prospect of performing there against what we rate as a very good Kildare side,” adds McCann.
McGuckin and O’Kane, both of whom were introduced as substitutes against Donegal, are now in the frame for starting places. And it is understood that the injuries which skipper Barry McGoldrick and long-serving utility player Enda Muldoon picked up against Donegal will not prevent them from turning out against Kieran McGeeney’s side.
“While obviously there is great disappointment in the aftermath of Sunday’s game we are now focused on going forward. We have not been getting the rub of the green lately what with the injuries to the Bradley brothers and a couple of crucial decisions going against us last Sunday, but we are still in the All -Ireland championship and we want to prove ourselves on Saturday,” states McCann.
Kildare will go into the game having overcome Laois and Meath in the qualifiers.