John now fits bill for Derry
Derry manager Paddy Crozier believes his side possess a not-so-secret weapon that could pilot them to success in 2008.
"I think the fact that we now have former Armagh trainer John McCloskey on board is a massive boost and I have no doubt that he will have the boys in great shape," enthuses Crozier.
McCloskey threw in his lot with the Oak Leaf county when the Armagh management team that he formed with Joe Kernan and Paul Grimley went their separate ways after the county exited the All Ireland Championship.
And Crozier believes that the highly-rated Belfast fitness guru will be able "to freshen things up" to such an extent that Derry will be making a strong challenge for the major honours in the New Year.
Crozier supervised Derry's first formal squad session last night and has already expressed himself as "well satisfied" with the response of players as the countdown begins to the Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup competition.
"Obviously we want to try and hit the ground running in the New Year but at the same time you have to give boys a chance. The fact that John McCloskey is now in there with his innovative training and coaching methods is a big bonus. The players have been responding well to him so far," points out Crozier.
Derry collected three formidable scalps in the All Ireland Qualifier series this year - Mayo, Armagh and Laois - and indeed looked set to reach the last four of the race for the Sam Maguire Cup until they were tripped up by Dublin.
Crozier still has a huge swathe of experience in his side and he is now hoping that this will be complemented by a level of fitness and stamina not previously exhibited by Derry sides.
"We believe that John McCloskey can do for us what he did for Armagh - that is, to ensure that players stay the distance, use their energy well and make pace a key component of their overall skills," says Crozier.
The Derry boss, incidentally, is a key member of the special committee that has been set up to oversee the special challenge match and gala banquet on June 7 next year in memory of his late predecessor Eamonn Coleman with all the proceeds going to different charities that were close to Eamonn's heart.