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Derry eager to make up for anguish of last year

By John Campbell

When Derry surged into last year's Allianz League Football final, it was to prove something of a false dawn.

Brian McIver's side lost to Dublin on that occasion but worse was to follow. The Oak Leaf outfit succumbed to Donegal in the Ulster Championship at Celtic Park and then fell to a defeat to Longford in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Thus a season which had initially promised much delivered only frustration and heartbreak.

Any notion, though, that McIver's men will adopt a more softly, softly approach this time round has already been dispelled.

They face last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists Donegal in their opening game at Ballybofey on Saturday night and then a week later will welcome All-Ireland champions Kerry to Celtic Park.

McIver is conscious that getting points in the bag before the two-week break from league action next month is crucial in the context of his team retaining their place in the top sector.

"The pressure is going to be on from the outset. There is a very thin line between reaching the league final and getting relegated - that's how tight the margins are," states McIver.

The return of Barry McGoldrick and Daniel Heavron will offset the absence of Patsy Bradley and Chrissy McKaigue who are in the throes of preparations for Slaughtneil's All-Ireland club semi-final against Austin Stacks (Tralee) on Sunday, February 15.

McGoldrick has fully recovered from a cruciate ligament injury and while afforded some game-time in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup, is particularly keen to get more action under his belt.

Bradley has won two significant individual awards of late following his majestic consistency for both club and county last year and McIver is keeping his fingers crossed that the Slaughtneil powerhouse will remain injury-free.

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