New Derry manager Brian McIver may have concerns just now about the future of quality forwards such as Paddy Bradley, Conleith Gilligan and Eoin Bradley in his side but he is suddenly being provided with a ration of comfort via the county senior football championship.
Forward planning: Brian McIver will be watching closely tonight BY JOHN CAMPBELL
DERRY SENIOR FOOTBALL SEMI-FINALNEW Derry manager Brian McIver may have concerns just now about the future of quality forwards such as Paddy Bradley, Conleith Gilligan and Eoin Bradley in his side but he is suddenly being provided with a ration of comfort via the county senior football championship.
And when Slaughtneil and Kilrea meet in tonight’s semi-final replay at Celtic Park, McIver will have another opportunity to assess the finishing skills of a battery of players who may well adorn the county jersey next term.
When the sides finished all-square at the weekend, McIver had cause to note the man of the match performance served up by Kilrea’s Lee Kennedy, one of the brightest prospects within the county, who helped himself to six points, while James Kielt’s four scores from frees suggested that his recall to the Oak Leaf squad could be imminent.
Nor is McIver’s microscope merely trained on the Kilrea sharpshooters. Chris Bradley finished with half-a-dozen points for Slaughtneil including the last score of the game which set the stage for tonight’s replay.
Fergal McEldowney and Se McGuigan each poached a brace of points for the side to further convince McIver and his selectors that marksmanship is far from a dying art within the county.
Paddy Bradley’s devastating second cruciate ligament injury within a year does not offer encouragement for his future involvement with Derry while his brother Eoin has gone to Australia temporarily and 32-year-old Gilligan is in the twilight of what has been a busy career.
But McIver is finding that he has rather more options than he might have imagined although he is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“We will be conducting trials but at the same time it is always interesting to see how players perform in a competitive environment. The county championship is building up to a very interesting climax and this is the ideal stage on which players can make their pitch for recognition but of course there is a wider picture to be looked at as well,” says McIver.
If McIver has reason to be impressed with the quality of scoring power that he has witnessed so far, then he can surely take heart too from the form of a revitalised Patsy Bradley in the Slaughtneil midfield.
Injuries meant that this flint-hard competitor was an absentee from the Derry side this year but it would appear that he has not only regained full fitness but also his appetite for top-level action.
“The door remains open to everyone,” reiterates McIver, “There are players who will be in action tonight who have worn the Derry jersey in the recent past and others who I imagine would be keen to represent the county for the first time. All will be treated on equal merit and the challenge for everyone is to show that they are really committed to playing for Derry.”
Ballinderry will await the winners of tonight’s match in the county final which is scheduled for Celtic Park on Sunday week.