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McIver tells Derry to draw benefits from home clash

By John Campbell

Brian McIver may have basked in home comforts in Championship football since taking over as Derry boss but not to the extent that silverware adorns Celtic Park.

Now that his team have been paired with Longford in Division 1A of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, McIver is hoping that his sixth successive knock-out fixture on familiar soil will prove the catalyst for a sustained surge into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

It's perhaps just as well, too, that Derry will be in the role of hosts against a Longford side that found Wexford too streetwise in the Leinster Championship at the weekend.

Two years ago, Derry, then under the baton of John Brennan, surrendered to Longford at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park (0-17 to 2-14) in a match that left a distinctly sour taste in the mouth and expedited Brennan's exit.

The subsequent appointment of McIver helped to steady the ship and in five Championship matches in the interim Derry have been drawn at home on every occasion although they have not always maximised this bonus.

They lost to Down in the Ulster Championship last year (2-17 to 1-15) before going on to beat Sligo (0-15 to 0-8) and then avenging their earlier result against James McCartan's side by triumphing on a 0-13 to 1-5 score line.

But their renaissance was short-lived when Cavan proved their masters (1-22 to 0-20) in third round of the qualifiers.

The cosy environment of Celtic Park yet again failed to elicit a winning performance from Derry when they lost to Donegal in the Ulster Championship earlier this month and now, given the experience they suffered against Longford two years ago, McIver's side will be burdened by a degree of apprehension for their renewal of rivalry with the midland outfit.

"Obviously you want to be playing at home but you have to maximise the benefits that can accrue from this," maintains McIver.

"Every Championship game can take on a life of its own irrespective of recent form as we have seen. We are starting from scratch against Longford and we want to try and extend our Championship season as much as possible."

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath, meanwhile, is likely to amend his defensive formation for what will be a difficult assignment against Laois who kept Dublin at full stretch for much of the Leinster Championship meeting between the sides on Sunday before falling away in the closing stages.

McGrath's team conceded too many scores in going under to Antrim in the Ulster Championship and a repeat of such lapses against Laois could have potentially embarrassing results.

Down boss James McCartan is also tasked with undertaking remedial rearguard action for a home meeting with Leitrim.

The Mourne side lost their Ulster replay to Tyrone by 3-11 to 0-12 and the concession of three goals in particular has given McCartan much food for thought ahead of the clash.

Belfast Telegraph

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