Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Fit-again duo aim to help Derry rise

Derry's Gerard O’Kane (left) is set to return against Wexford
Derry's Gerard O’Kane (left) is set to return against Wexford

Two players whose careers were disrupted by injuries incurred in last year's Dr McKenna Cup final have their sights firmly set on helping to trigger a Derry promotion surge in the Allianz Football League.

It was after just eight minutes of action against Tyrone that experienced defender Gerard O'Kane limped off to be followed by Emmet McGuckin who sustained a concussion.

The duo subsequently only played spasmodically for the Oak Leaf side before embarking on rehabilitation programmes and they are now ready to bolster manager Brian McIver's selection options.

Having claimed the scalp of Laois in their last outing, Derry will travel to Wexford on Sunday week in the knowledge that victory could thrust them into the frame for promotion.

But while optimism has replaced the apprehension which prevailed after a modest McKenna Cup campaign, McIver is anxious to keep his side grounded.

"Division Two is extremely competitive and we have some very tough games ahead of us.

"Wexford are a side who have reached the closing stages of the All-Ireland series for the past couple of years and boast a number of very experienced players," points out McIver.

The return of the vastly experienced O'Kane will help cement a defence that uncharacteristically conceded 2-2 through basic errors against Laois – a setback that has clearly perturbed and disappointed McIver.

Emmet McGuckin, who was introduced to the Derry panel by John Brennan during his term in charge, has certainly repaid the faith shown in him by the former boss.

Against Laois, the strapping McGuckin scored 1-3, his strength on the ball and marksmanship unsettling the visitors' defence.

McGuckin is certainly not getting carried away by his scoring feat on that occasion.

"I was very fortunate to get a good service and things just went right for me. But it was our team ethic which really took us to that win over Laois," explains McGuckin.

He turned out for UUJ in the McKenna Cup meaning that Derry boss McIver was only viewing his talents for the first time this year against Laois.

Meanwhile, manager Paul Grimley has named an unchanged Armagh side to face Wexford in Saturday's re-arranged Allianz Football League Division Two game at the Athletic Grounds.

Armagh: P McEvoy; M Shields, J Donnelly, D McKenna; C McKeever, A Forker, B Loughran; S Harold, K Toner; C Rafferty, N McConville, E Rafferty; E McVerry, S Forker, B Mallon.

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