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Derry emerging from injury crisis

By John Campbell

Derry manager John Brennan is hoping that he will enjoy better fortune in 2012 than he did this year.

At one stage earlier in the season no fewer than four Oak Leaf midfielders — Patsy Bradley, Fergal Doherty, Niall Holly and Joe Diver — were on the injured list, forcing Brennan to give Michael Friel his chance in the engine-room.

When Doherty slipped off the radar and Bradley was confirmed as a long-term injury victim, Brennan’s options became starkly limited.

And he was confronted with an even bigger dilemma when the Bradley brothers Eoin and Paddy were subsequently ruled out of his attack, their year ending prematurely through cruciate ligament and hamstring injuries respectively.

But Friel’s impressive form coupled with Diver’s return to action brought stability to the side and although disappointment was their lot against Donegal in the Ulster final prior to a tame exit against Kildare in the All-Ireland qualifiers, Brennan never lost faith in his charges.

That faith has been replenished now that Paddy Bradley could be on his way back sooner rather than later — it may be closer to Easter before Eoin returns — while seasoned warriors Enda Muldoon and Conleith Gilligan are expected to be available for another year and Lee Moore has flashed a warning that he is ready to challenge for a regular place.

With Chrissy McKaigue back from Australia and targeting a place and Kevin McGuckin being viewed as a readymade replacement for the retired Kevin McCloy at full-back, Derry will approach the McKenna Cup and National League with optimism.

County PRO Chris McCann concedes that while this year’s Ulster final left “a sour taste” it has not diluted the squad’s ambition to end a provincial title famine that stretches back to 1998.

“There are still a lot of very good players in this Derry side and if we can get those who are injured back and hopefully remain relatively injury-free after that then I think we could get into the shake-up for trophies,” states McCann.

Lee Moore’s explosive form for Craigbane in their Ulster Club Intermediate championship triumph has thrust him even more firmly into the reckoning.

“Obviously Lee will continue to be involved with Craigbane in the All-Ireland Intermediate club series but the expectation is that he will re-join the county squad when his club’s involvement ends,” explains McCann.

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