IF Derry manager Damian Cassidy is feeling the heat as his team await formal confirmation of their demotion to Division Two of the National Football League then he is displaying no outward signs of panic.
It’s quite the reverse in fact as the 1993 All Ireland winner looks to his under-21 squad to provide him with encouragement for the final league outing against Galway by coming up trumps in their Ulster Championship semi-final against Donegal at Healy Park, Omagh tonight (8.00pm).
Even in losing to Cork last Saturday, Cassidy (pictured) was prepared to dwell on what he felt were the positives rather than cloak himself in recriminations. Now he’s hoping that his under-21 side, which has recorded fine victories to date over Tyrone and Fermanagh, can topple Donegal to reach the decider against either Monaghan or Cavan and thus infuse Oak Leaf followers with confidence for the future.
“I felt we outplayed Cork in stages of last weekend’s game and while we now have to go to face a rejuvenated Galway side, I am quite happy with the way we have been performing.
“Obviously you want to win every match but that is not always possible. There is a good spirit within the Derry senior side and I would like to think that this spirit will be replicated by the under-21 squad,” says Cassidy.
James Kielt will lead Derry having been brought off at half-time against Cork. He will be a key figure in the attack alongside the free-scoring Lee Moore. In last week’s semi-final win over Fermanagh the duo shared in an explosive scoring burst that propelled Derry into a sizeable lead before the Ernesiders made a second-half recovery which still fell short of achieving victory.
Caolan O’Boyle from the Lavey club has been making a huge impact in Derry’s colours recently having earlier distinguished himself with UUJ in the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup competition while Lee Kennedy, a Kilrea club colleague of skipper Kielt, has also been making a big contribution to the county’s progress.
Donegal overcame Armagh in their quarter-final tie last week with the help of a generous input from full-forward Michael Murphy.
In the other semi-final Monaghan and Cavan will meet at Brewster Park, Enniskillen (8.00pm) where the Breffni side, with David Givney a key figure at midfield, will be hoping to resume where they left off against reigning champions Down last week. Cavan’s resounding 3-14 to 1-8 victory was one of the shocks of the Ulster season to date at any level.
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney can call on four players from his senior squad — Colm Greenan, Colin Walsh, Dermot Malone and Kieran Hughes.