Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Heron proof that students can leap into county sides

Benny Heron will make his debut for Derry on Sunday after impressing for St Mary's University College
Benny Heron will make his debut for Derry on Sunday after impressing for St Mary's University College

The theory that players can jeopardise their prospects of gaining recognition with county teams if they commit themselves to their university sides during the opening phase of the season has been further undermined by Benny Heron.

The Ballinascreen clubman is included in the Derry side for Sunday's important Allianz Football League Division Two encounter against Wexford on the back of a series of consistent displays for St Mary's University College.

He may have been out of sight for the greater part of the year to date but he was not out of Derry manager Brian McIver's mind.

"I have no hesitation in giving Benny his debut in the Derry team because he has had an impressive season with St Mary's. Besides, he has been going well in training and deserves his place. We will continue to pick players on form and on their efforts in training," said McIver.

Herron comes into the Derry full-forward line alongside Emmet McGuckin and Eoin Bradley to confront a Wexford full-back line that wobbled precariously in the second-half against Armagh last weekend.

But, while McIver was impressed by the orchard county's stunning comeback, the style and artistry that Wexford unveiled when dominating the first-half has not been lost on him.

"Wexford produced a first-half display at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday that marks them down as very dangerous opponents. They were unlucky not to win that game which would have been a great result for them," points out the Derry boss.

"Now we have to go to Wexford Park knowing that not too many teams get a result there. We will have to be prepared. Wexford have been consistently strong for four or five years now and we are in for a battle."

While Herron will represent new blood in the Derry side, former skipper Gerard O'Kane brings a raft of experience to the defence now that he is fully fit again.

The Glenullin clubman has had more than his share of injuries over the past year but is back to concert pitch and anxious to re-establish himself as one of the best defenders in the province.

"That win over Laois in our last game has given us a tremendous lift and if we could beat Wexford, this would surely provide us with the drive to go for promotion. All teams want to be in the top division to test themselves against the best," insists O'Kane.

Along with Chissy O'Kane, rapidly acquiring the status of an extremely accomplished full-back, and the tigerish-tackling Dermot McBride he forms a full-back line that is certain to offer spirited resistance to the Wexford attack powered by Shane Roche, Redmond Barry, P J Banville and Ben Brosnan. Daithi Waters and Craig Doyle will also seek to maintain concentration for the entire game rather than repeat that second-half fade-out against Armagh.

Derry: T Mallon; G O'Kane, C McKaigue, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, S L McGoldrick; Patsy Bradley, P J McCloskey; B McGoldrick, J Kielt, E Lynn; B Heron, E McGuckin, E Bradley.

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