Derry boss Brian McIver ready to give rising stars a chance
Derry manager Brian McIver may find that next month's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup will not be the only competition in which he will be pressed into assessing fresh talent.
Normally county team bosses, deprived of some of their players because of university call-ups and stripped of the services of others because of a 'slow' return to action, bid to maximise the January action in terms of unearthing fresh nuggets.
But McIver may be forced to extend his quest for additional resources into the opening stages of the Allianz League because of Slaughtneil's involvement in the All-Ireland Club Championship.
Last year McIver was forced to do without his Ballinderry contingent while they too were involved in the All-Ireland series so this will not be a new challenge for the Derry boss
But given that Derry's opening game in Division One is against Donegal, the team that torpedoed their Ulster Championship aspirations at Celtic Park back in June, McIver is keen to have his strongest possible side on duty.
However, with Chrissy McKaigue and Patsy Bradley ruled out because of Slaughtneil's commitments, McIver will now be forced to replace two of his most valued players.
Derry have uncomfortable memories of their championship loss to Donegal not least because midfield ace Fergal Doherty was forced to retire prematurely from the action after sustaining an injudicious knee in the back.
"The loss of Fergal was a big blow to us on that occasion yet we still managed to hold the upper hand at half-time but we fell away after the break," recalls McIver.
McKaigue has just taken delivery of the Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit award following his outstanding performances for Slaughtneil in their charge to the provincial club title and his absence from the Derry side in the early part of the season means that McIver must seek out a new incumbent for the No 3 shirt.
He may turn to the talented Conor McAtamney who has already gained senior experience.
And the loss of Bradley at midfield could prompt McIver to take a closer look at Peter Cassidy and Niall Holly.
In the longer term, McIver may also take on board the recent fine performances of McCaigue's brother Karl, a tower of strength in the Slaughtneil defence.
McIver adds: "Division One is going to be fiercely competitive and our hope is that we will get everyone on board as quickly as possible and then keep our fingers crossed that we can avoid injuries."