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Mayo's scalp would be ideal lift for Derry: McGuckin

 

By John Campbell

It's not often a team remain unconcerned about having to fulfil an important fixture on the ground of their opponents. But then Derry's inability to maximise home comforts has proved their Achilles heel of late.

In their last five competitive games at home, four in the league and one in the Championship, the Oak Leaf side have won just once and even then it was a fraught 1-18 to 1-17 league victory over Kildare.

And it's this ongoing failure to deliver at home that sees Derry preparing to travel to Castlebar for Saturday's crucial All-Ireland qualifier against Mayo unencumbered by away-day baggage.

In the first round of the qualifiers, Derry took a tentative step towards redemption after their Ulster Championship defeat to Tyrone by overcoming minnows Waterford but their joust with a Mayo side narrowly beaten by Dublin (1-15 to 1-14) after a replay in last year's All-Ireland final marks a gigantic step up.

Yet far from being intimidated by the prospect, Derry positively relish the challenge, according to assistant manager Brian McGuckin.

They may have struggled for the most part in the league and made an inauspicious exit from the Ulster series, but Derry clearly believe that Saturday's contest represents a golden opportunity to reclaim credibility.

"We are where we want to be," insisted McGuckin. "We are keen to test ourselves against the best and obviously our home record has not been the greatest. But we will go to Castlebar and we won't be quaking in our boots."

And while Derry came in for heavy criticism following their setback against Mickey Harte's side, Tyrone native McGuckin is anxious to put that defeat into context.

"I genuinely think that for 50 minutes we were in with a shout," he reflected. "Tyrone were never that far ahead of us and it was only in the closing minutes that they opened up a gap before they won by nine points. We took positives from that display but also learned lessons from it.

"The fact that we were relegated in the league was a disappointment but it's worth remembering that we had a lot of young, inexperienced players in our side for that competition. They have matured a bit since then but the big task for everyone will be to bring their 'A' game to the table on Saturday."

McGuckin and manager Damian Barton expect to have a full hand from which to deal when they confirm their line-up tonight.

Certainly, players such as Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Benny Heron, James Kielt, Karl McKaigue and skipper Enda Lynn lend a seasoned flavour to the team.

And McGuckin firmly dismisses the notion that the playing of domestic league games within the county has impacted on the build-up to Saturday's mission.

"I honestly don't believe that playing league games has done the boys any harm," stated McGuckin. "In fact, I think this has helped to keep them sharp. Certainly, to win against Mayo on their own ground would be a tremendous boost for us "

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