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Derry prepare to surprise Dublin

By John Campbell

Derry manager Brian McIver is planning to unleash his not-so-secret weapon on Dublin in Sunday's Allianz League Football final at Croke Park.

When the Oak Leaf side secured a handsome six-point win over Jim Gavin's All-Ireland champions at Celtic Park earlier in the competition, Emmett McGuckin was conspicuous by his absence.

But the muscular O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt clubman is all set to confront the Dubs this time round although his reputation has preceded him somewhat.

If McGuckin's forceful, direct play from the full-forward position was not on the menu in the previous encounter, then his goal-scoring exploits in particular have been compiled and assessed meticulously by the Dublin management – and with good reason.

Just as Eoghan O'Gara's swashbuckling, gung-ho approach has brought a cavalier element to the Dublin attack, McGuckin's fearsome focus on finding the net has inculcated a fresh dimension into Derry's attacking machinery.

Prior to the league, doubts were being expressed that the Derry attack would miss the artistry and finishing skills of Eoin Bradley who had wielded such a pronounced influence for some time before linking up with Coleraine FC in the Irish League.

But McGuckin's willingness to pick up the gauntlet when it was thrown down to him by manager McIver has made all the difference to Derry's fortunes.

Having accumulated goals against Cork, Mayo and Westmeath, McGuckin has clearly flashed out the message that Croke Park on Sunday will provide him with another platform on which to further his increasingly rounded skills.

"Emmett missed the earlier game against Dublin because he was injured but as everyone knows he is now back in the side and firing on all cylinders," points out Derry spokesman Dermot McPeake.

"Not only does he score goals but his shooting tends to be of the spectacular variety as was the case in the drawn game against Mayo in particular."

McGuckin was originally drafted into the Derry squad by McIver's predecessor John Brennan but from being a peripheral player of no fixed abode in the team formation he now finds himself cast in the role of target man – and he's enjoying every minute of it.

"When I first was called up by Derry I was just happy to be in the panel," points out McGuckin.

"Then I got my chance unexpectedly in attack and I made up my mind to try and make the best of it.

"Competition for places is such that nobody takes anything for granted, though. I'm just glad to be in the side and I'll play anywhere I am asked."

But there is little chance that he will be moved out of his role in front of the opposition posts.

On Sunday he seems certain to go head to head with Dublin full-back Rory O'Carroll, reckoned to be one of the best defenders in the country.

This will be O'Carroll's first confrontation with the Magherafelt predator and although he has had his 'card marked' as to what he can expect, he knows that he will have his hands full.

For his part, McGuckin is hoping that the Derry midfield partnership can keep the supply line operating smoothly.

"If the lads can get a bit of ball in, the chances are that we might get a few scores," he adds.

"I don't mind who hits the points and scores the goals just as long as we win.

"I know that Derry are proud of their record in the league and I would love to play a part in further improving this record."

County board official McPeake points to the dynamic attacking triangle that McGuckin forms in tandem with skipper Mark Lynch and the very much in-form Enda Lynn.

"Here we have three players right on top of their game. Obviously there was speculation after Eoin Bradley left us that we would miss him badly but Emmett has played no small part in ensuring that this is not really the case," stresses the Derry official.

"He has shown a marked tendency to grab important goals and as we know such scores can prove the turning point in games. If he manages to hit the net in Croke Park on Sunday, this will prove another source of inspiration to Derry."

Belfast Telegraph

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