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Derry boss McIver looks forward to Donegal clash

By John Campbell

Derry manager Brian McIver is already setting out his stall for his team's Ulster Championship quarter-final tie against Donegal next summer.

Having completed an extensive trawl of talent during the county championship which culminated in Ballinderry's victory over Ballinascreen, McIver plans to formulate an initial pool of players which will ultimately be trimmed.

Painful memories of Derry's tame exit from the Ulster Championship at the hands of Down in Celtic Park earlier this year still abound and McIver is keen to see a provincial title famine that stretches back to 1998 ended.

With his team having gained promotion to Division One, the Oak Leaf boss believes that the experience of playing against top sides such as Dublin, Mayo and Kerry will serve his team well.

This year McIver handed championship debuts to several players including Eoin McNicholl, Benny Heron, Ciaran McFaul, Ryan Bell, Declan Brown, Emmet Bradley and Aaron Devlin and feels the experience they gained will stand the squad in good stead in 2014.

"Obviously Donegal will be like ourselves, they will be very keen to make up for their lack of achievement in a championship context this year. They are beginning their preparations early and we have to be on our toes," states McIver.

"We have just had a very good county championship in which a number of players have impressed and this is certainly encouraging going forward."

The fact that championship attendances have been up by 15 per cent pleases McIver and county board officials.

"There is tremendous enthusiasm out there and now we all want to see the county team make a big impact," says chairman John Keenan.

McIver has continued to take a close interest in Donegal affairs having managed the side from 2006 to 2008, the highlight of his term in charge winning the 2007 Division One crown.

Donegal defeated Derry, who were then under the baton of McIver's predecessor John Brennan, in the 2011 Ulster final.

And Donegal boss Jim McGuinness, who is currently focused on mapping out strength and conditioning programmes for his players, is already talking up Derry – something calculated to put McIver even more on his guard!

"It's a tough first round for us. Derry are always difficult opponents," maintains McGuinness.

"It is going to be very awkward in Celtic Park. It will be a fantastic atmosphere. It will be one of those occasions to which everyone will be looking forward to."

McGuinness has recalled experienced trio Christy Toye, Ciaran Bonner and Leon Thompson to his squad.

Meanwhile, the Donegal Competitions Control Committee has turned down a request from Glenswilly to have their county final against Killybegs postponed to Friday, October 25.

Glenswilly had sought the postponement as their talisman Michael Murphy is due to captain Ireland in the first International Rules Test on Saturday week, just 24 hours before the county decider.

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