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Barton is hoping Oak Leafs can click into gear

By John Campbell

Published 16/07/2016

Hot shot: James Kielt can prove the ace in Derry's pack
Hot shot: James Kielt can prove the ace in Derry's pack

When Derry floundered against Tyrone in a one-sided Ulster Championship quarter-final clash in May, the notion that they might still remain in the frame for the biggest prize of all was deemed as nothing more than fanciful.

Manager Damian Barton watched his side labour through the league campaign before they capitulated to the pace and power of the Red Hands and surely concluded that the summer was going to be short and not at all sweet for his panel of players.

Yet when the Oak Leaf side confront Cavan in today's All-Ireland qualifier, they will do so buttressed by wins over Louth and Meath to date.

They will also be buoyed by the presence of a battery of fresh talent on their bench and encouraged by the renewed faith of their normally fickle supporters.

However, the obvious plus factors must not be allowed to cloud what is a worrying helping of harsh reality.

Against Meath last weekend, Derry were much too porous in the first-half and but for a magnificent block by Gareth McKinless could have found themselves adrift by 10 points at one stage.

Barton's half-time rhetoric paid dividends as his side had more composure and bite after the break with Greenlough duo Niall Loughlin and Enda Lynn bouncing off the bench to post the scores that helped take their team into today's confrontation.

He may have been at a loss to explain his team's first-half effort but Barton is in no doubt as to what is required today against a Cavan side which gained a modicum of solace by hurdling lowly Carlow last Saturday.

"We need to repeat last week's second-half form," he stressed.

Conor McAtamney and Niall Holly will carry a big responsibility at midfield while Christopher Bradley gets another opportunity to cement his growing maturity at centrethreequarters with skipper Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers the central planks at the back.

If James Kielt sees enough of the ball, Derry have the potential to unlock the home defence.

Derry: T Mallon; G McKinless, C McKaigue, K McKaigue; C McFaul, B Rogers, C Mullan; C McAtamney, N Holly; D Heavron, C Bradley, E Brown; J Kielt, E McGuckin, M Lynch.

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