Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Life is good for Derry

Derry manager Brian McIver

Last year, Derry stumbled into the Championship searching and scratching around for form as they barely survived their Division Two league campaign.

Nothing boosts the confidence of a team like winning, but last season under John Brennan, such a feeling became foreign to Derry.

Ever since Brian McIver came in however, the Oak Leaf men have been full of optimism. Last Saturday night they scored a comprehensive win over Division Two table-proppers Longford, leaving them top of the table with fellow promotion hopefuls Louth and Westmeath left to face.

Not that they are talking promotion for granted, maintains wing-forward Aidan McAlynn.

"No, we haven't talked about it, we are just taking every game as it comes," he said.

"Two points was the most important thing. This time last year we were struggling for points at the wrong end of the league but this time we have a chance to enjoy our football and if promotion is on the cards then we will take it if it comes."

Prior to this game, McIver had sent out his own warning that Longford held no fears of Derry, having knocked them out of the Championship in a stormy first-round qualifier encounter in Pearse Park.

While that may have been an exercise in lowering expectations, McAlynn insists that the memory of that defeat was not a motivating factor in how they performed on the night.

"There are a lot of new faces in this season," he said. "Last year is gone. This year there are new players, new management and a new system."

For Loup man McAlynn, the dawning of a new season has been most welcome. In the midst of an injury-crisis last year he was pressed into action in an unfamiliar role in defence. While that was a learning curve in itself, he has also had to manage a troublesome hamstring strain throughout the league.

"It is good to be back and maybe injury-free for a while. I worked hard from the Tyrone game on the hamstring and, touch wood, now hopefully everything is going well.

"I played a bit in the full-back line last season under John Brennan and you play where you are put. I am happy enough to be in the team because there is a lot of competition.

"This time last year we were facing a bit of a struggle but we are at the right end of the table this time for a change which is nice. It takes the pressure off a bit and hopefully allows you to enjoy things a bit more and hopefully when you are enjoying it you play better football."

The quality of the football on Saturday night was questionable, but that could not be laid at Derry's door.

Longford came with an extremely negative gameplan that was based on containment and they continually resorted to the blight of forwards fouling as they sought to construct a packed defence.

"Longford were very hard to break down and played with 12 men behind the ball at times," explained McAlynn. "We kicked a few wides but I think the result was a fair reflection and we deserved to come out on the right side of the result.

"The scoreline has a lot to do with how we finished. When you are on top you have that bit of adrenaline running through you and it is a whole lot easier to push forward than it is when you are chasing the game."

McAlynn was emphasizing the positives when he said: "It maybe wasn't vintage stuff but we got over the line and there were 14 points kicked. Okay, I know there were a lot of wides kicked as well but we held Longford to five points for 70 minutes and that is not easy to do.

"Longford were never going to make it easy for us but we came away with two points and that was the main thing."

Those two points has them riding high and with Westmeath coming to Celtic Park for their last league game, the charge for Division One football will go right down to the wire. For McIver's squad of players, everything gets very competitive now according to McAlynn.

"Things are going well, everyone is training hard, there is a new management team and everybody is hungry to play. If we want to play at the top level you have to be fit and push on."

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