Derry facing tough battle against Monaghan to survive
Three consecutive losses have suddenly burdened Derry with relegation worries in Division One of the National Football League.
The early bonus provided through an opening round win over Tyrone has been effectively negated by a slump that has encompassed setbacks against Kerry, Dublin and Mayo.
Now manager Damian Cassidy views tomorrow’s vital confrontation with fellow strugglers Monaghan at Scotstown as an opportunity to regain a semblance of credibility rather than a challenge to remain in the title frame.
“It could be said that we have not enjoyed a rub of the green in some games but on the other hand our fate has been in our own hands,” says Cassidy.
“Obviously I am disappointed but there is still a chance that we can retain our status.
“After we play Monaghan we have to face Cork and Galway so it can be seen that we will have our work cut out to make up ground.”
The Oak Leaf defence encountered difficulty in dealing with a lively Mayo attack at Celtic Park last Saturday night — so much so that Cassidy has now amended his side.
And although James Kielt started at midfield in that game, there is no doubt that he can prove more valuable up front where his finishing can complement that of the Bradley brothers Eoin and Paddy.
Despite victory over Cork in Healy Park last time out, Tyrone boss Mickey Harte rings the changes for the trip to Galway.
The vastly experienced John Devine returns in goals in place of Jonny Curran with Ciaran Gourley restored to the full back line to the exclusion of Cathal McCarron.
Joe McMahon is back after suspension and takes over from Mark Donnelly while both Colm McCullagh and Jason McAnulla now figure in the attack, at centre half forward and left corner forward respectively.
It’s an intriguing match in that it brings old adversaries Mickey Harte and Joe Kernan into direct opposition.
It was more than just a wake up call when Big Joe’s men found themselves well and truly demolished by Kerry last time out.
They now have to try and prove that was a fluke result, a one off, but Tyrone, buoyant after beating Cork, will be flat out to pile further misery on the Tribesmen.
Big Joe will certainly expect a much improved display, but he has had to plan without Micheal Meehan who suffered a knee injury against Kerry.
In addition Sean Armstrong is also a non starter while Padraic Joyce continues his recovery after a long term injury.
Sean Cavanagh’s return offers Mickey Harte greater attacking options and offsets the absence of midfielder Enda McGinley.
The all ticket meeting of Down and Armagh in Pairc Esler this evening could well decide which side will be playing its football in Division One next season.