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Dr McKenna Cup: Competition for places is key, insists Derry boss

By John Campbell

Derry manager John Brennan believes he is inching his way towards an important goal as the National League looms.

“Ideally, I would like to have two players for every position if possible. This would mean that we could approach games with a greater degree of confidence,” insists Brennan.

But his team-building plans took a knock last Sunday when enterprising midfielder John McCamley, in his first season in the inter-county arena, and utility forward Emmet McGuckin were injured in the Dr McKenna Cup semi-final against Down.

“These are injuries we could have done without and it was distressing to see John being taken off on a stretcher at half-time,” says Lavey clubman Brennan.

For tonight’s Power NI Dr McKenna Cup final against Tyrone, Brennan will dig deeper into his resources as he seeks to plot a strategy that will help his side retain the trophy.

“We have given a lot of players game time in the competition to date and we are getting towards having a couple of players for each position. But you have to accept that injuries will happen.

“With the National League just round the corner we need to be as strong as possible,” states Brennan.

The return of Paddy Bradley from injury, the inspirational form of veteran Conleith Gilligan and the impact which Chrissy McKaigue has made since his return from Australian Rules football have encouraged Brennan greatly in his efforts to make Derry a major force once again.

Neil Forrester and Liam Morrow have caught the eye although tomorrow night it’s likely that established players such as Gerard O’Kane, Mark Lynch and Sean Leo McGoldrick will be given key roles.

Cailean O’Boyle is maturing into a quality forward and his ability to win ball and finish cleverly is helping to boost an attack that is still without Eoin Bradley.

Last year, Derry were severely handicapped by injuries and Brennan is keeping his fingers crossed that there will be no repetition of that level of misfortune.

“We had a lot of players out then and that did not help us. Thankfully we have been getting men back slowly but surely and we don’t want to lose any more to injuries,” says Brennan.

In winning the McKenna Cup last year, Derry hinted at even better things to come but they failed to gain promotion from Division Two and lost to Donegal in the Ulster final before bowing out of the All-Ireland to Kildare.

“I would take another McKenna Cup triumph but would be even keener to land an Ulster title. We were not that far away last year and now the challenge is to build on that progress,” points out Brennan.

The return of Joe Diver to midfield, the consistency of goalkeeper Danny Devlin and the fact that James Conway is available again fuel Brennan’s hopes that his side can accomplish rather more.

“Our aim has to be to get up into Division One of the league and try to land the Ulster title.

“The squad has taken shape and I want strong competition for places. Two players for every position will continue to be my target — that would give us a solid platform going forward,” maintains Brennan.

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