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Derry men are dreaming of success again

By John Campbell

Three points out of a possible four to date in the Allianz Football League has spawned the belief that Derry could experience one of its most momentous sporting weeks next month.

A draw against Tyrone in the opening round of the league was followed by that stunning away victory over Kerry in Tralee at the weekend and now suddenly the spirit of optimism is alive and well within a county that for too long has been burdened by apprehension and negativity.

Manager Brian McIver is conscious that his side will be the focus of rather more attention.

They host Westmeath on Sunday, March 2 before making the long haul trip to Cork on Sunday, March 9.

And should they win both these showdowns – on current form who would bet against them? – then the most appetising dish of all awaits on Sunday, March 16, when current Allianz League and All-Ireland champions Dublin drop anchor at Celtic Park for a match that should have the city venue bursting at the seams.

It gets even better, too. Should Ballinderry beat Dublin and Leinster champions St Vincent's in their All-Ireland club championship semi-final at Newry on Saturday, then they will be in action against either Dr Crokes or Castlebar Mitchels on St Patrick's Day in Croke Park, thus providing a double bill of rare quality for even the most discerning of followers.

While Derry folk cannot be blamed for indulging a little in crystal ball gazing, the threat which Westmeath and Cork will pose before the clash with Dublin can be seriously contemplated is very real.

"Westmeath ran Dublin close and Cork have beaten Kildare so there is talent and real quality in both the teams," points out McIver.

"We are taking each match as it comes. There is a lot of character and work-rate in the side at the moment."

He may still be without his four cruciate ligament injury victims –Barry McGoldrick, Daniel Heavron, Raymond Wilkinson and P J McCloskey – but McIver clearly has sufficient resources as his disposal to discomfit the best sides.

And this is without his imposing Ballinderry contingent, who may well be out of bounds until the latter stages of the league.

"It's something of a Catch 22 situation in relation to the Ballinderry players," states McIver.

"We would love to have them back but we still want them to go on and win the All-Ireland club title.

"We will be right behind them when they play St Vincent's in the semi-final on Saturday."

Derry have suffered their share of setbacks, particularly in the championship, over recent years to such an extent that caution has been the key word in a county starved of meaningful success.

Yet a victory for Ballinderry on Saturday and wins for McIver's men over Westmeath and Cork would surely precipitate a mesmerising build-up to that enticing mid-March feast.

That might well prove the signpost to significant glory for a county that has resided for rather too long in the shadows.

Belfast Telegraph

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