Derry must sink Cork to remain afloat
Derry have contested the last two National Football League finals, triumphing over Kerry in 2008 but surrendering to them last year.
Now, instead of focusing on what would have been a creditable hat-trick of final appearances, the Oak Leaf County will be fighting for survival in Division One when they confront buoyant Cork at Celtic Park tomorrow night.
For manager Damian Cassidy, seeking out the positives is difficult right now.
However, he can take heart from the feisty performance of his Under 21 side who overcame Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship semi-final on Wednesday night and the bulldog spirit that has infiltrated his senior squad as they prepare to do battle with Conor Counihan’s in-form troops.
Derry face big problems in every sense tomorrow night. Cork, the most physically imposing side in the country by a distance, have the capacity to suffocate opponents and have grown accustomed to racking up impressive scores.
In addition, they generally travel well, possessing as they do craft and experience.
Oak Leaf boss Cassidy acknowledges the importance of the game but insists that Championship success is still his primary goal.
“Obviously our main focus is the Ulster Championship preliminary round game against Armagh in May but we would like to stay up in Division One if we can.
“Tomorrow night’s game against Cork is huge for us and it will take an extra-special effort from the boys if we are to win,” admits Cassidy.
Kevin McGuckin is back in defence, Joe Diver is at midfield and Raymond Wilkinson continues in the Derry attack.
James Kielt will skipper the Derry side against Donegal in the Under 21 semi-final on Wednesday night and will sit out tomorrow’s game which means Derry will again lean on the Bradley brothers Paddy and Eoin for scores.
Cork are likely to be without twin giants Pearse O’Neill and Nicholas Murphy due to injury.
If the supply line to the Oak Leaf attack is rendered ineffective tomorrow, Derry may have to prepare for life at a lower level.