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Derry footballers face big drop just like the hurlers

By John Campbell

It might be deemed unthinkable in some quarters but Derry are suddenly confronted by the shattering prospect of relegation in both football and hurling.

The hurlers have already taken their leave of Division 2A following an ignominious campaign that yielded five successive defeats and left morale within Tom McLean's squad at rock bottom.

Now the football team will launch a desperate bid to retain their place in Division Two of the Allianz League when they face Meath and Armagh in their last two matches.

It's a scenario alien to a county which just two years ago contested the league final proper when they were beaten by Dublin.

But the Oak Leaf landscape has changed quite dramatically since then. Just as the hurlers found it difficult to cope when no fewer than 11 of the 19 players that competed against Kerry in the Christy Ring Cup final last year left the squad for a variety of reasons, the football side has been hit by injuries and inconsistency that now leaves them with their backs to the wall.

With Ciaran McFaul out for family reasons and broken-leg victim Enda Lynn still absent from their attack, the acquisition of a settled partnership at midfield still proving rather elusive and Dermot McBride's man-marking capabilities missing from the defence, apprehension rather than optimism cloaks their approach to Sunday's clash with Meath at Owenbeg (2pm).

On the positive side, Ryan Bell, Emmet Bradley and Brendan Rogers have been showing fine form in a team that has endured a roller-coaster ride since the start of the year.

And even with just five points to date, Derry are not altogether out of the reckoning for the second promotion place on offer.

"It's just so tight in Division Two," said skipper Chrissy McKaigue. "Cavan and Galway are above us and obviously a lot will depend on results spanning the next two weekends. We are very keen to stay in this division but the injuries we have had and the fact that we have been conceding scores do not help our cause."

"Tyrone of course are already up and we have to be honest and admit that our destiny is in our own hands. We can't expect anyone to do us any favours."

Derry garnered only three points in total last year before making the drop from Division One and the possibility of back-to-back demotions has struck fear into a county trying to land an Ulster Championship crown for the first time since 1998.

Concerns have been expressed lately about what are perceived to be frailties within the central spine of the team and coach Brian McGuckin, standing in for suspended manager Damian Barton, is working overtime to address this issue.

THE death has occurred of Brendan Sloan who was an outstanding defender in the Down team that won the National League and All-Ireland titles in 1968.

The Attical clubman formed a strong full-back line in tandem with Dan McCartan and Tom O'Hare in the side that beat Kerry to lift the Sam Maguire Cup for a third time.

Sloan initially made his mark at minor level alongside players like Colm McAlarney, John Murphy, John Purdy, Mickey Cole and Peter Rooney who were to form the backbone of the all-conquering 1968 senior team.

His death follows that earlier this week of Newry Shamrocks clubman Eugene Treanor, who was a member of the extended 1968 panel.

Belfast Telegraph

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