McKinless brothers out of Donegal GAA tie
Derry manager Brian McIver watched Donegal bring Armagh to their knees in last Sunday's Ulster Championship quarter-final with a mixture of anticipation tinged with forboding.
His side will meet Rory Gallagher's in-form outfit in the forthcoming semi-final knowing they will be rank outsiders in the eyes of many.
But if Donegal's supremacy over the orchard county emphasised they have no intention of parting company with the Anglo-Celt Cup, then recent events give McIver more cause for optimism as he prepares for what is one of the biggest assignments of his current managerial tenure.
The biggest boost has come with the rescinding of the ban on Gareth McKinless - although lack of training will rule him out of the Donegal game - while McKinless's brother Daniel is also missing because of a knee injury sustained in a club game.
And the manager's aspirations of having rather more of his Slaughtneil contingent on board have been dashed. Daniel McKinless incurred his injury while playing for Ballinderry against Newbliss and a scan revealed the full extent of the damage.
"The kneecap came off at the bone but, thank goodness, he did not do his cruciate," explains McIver, "But he will definitely be out for a while."
On the plus side, Karl McKaigue, Emmett Bradley, Patsy Bradley and Michael McIver are all back in the frame although McKaigue is the only one who could come into contention for a place against a Donegal side that have been confirmed as short-odds favourites to lift the Ulster title.
"The win over Down in the quarter-final set us up for this semi-final against Donegal in a good way because it let us know that we have more work to do and we have been getting on with this," says McIver.
"It's nice to be going in to the last four and we are looking forward to the match."
In overcoming Armagh so convincingly at the week-end, Donegal did not concede one free within striking distance of their posts in the first-half.
It's a statistic that has provided the deep-thinking McIver with much food for thought.
There was a feeling at Celtic Park that Derry might have been awarded more frees than they actually got against Down but McIver has now been left in no doubt that winning frees from scoring positions against Rory Gallagher's side will be a tall order.
"Conceding frees is one of the things that we will be talking about. Hopefully the referee will see the frees in a different light than they were in the game against Down," added McIver.
"That's as diplomatically as I can put it."