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National Football League: Derry chasing hat-trick

By John Campbell

It has been a good week to date for football in Derry.



Last Saturday the Oak Leaf County defeated Tyrone in the final of the Dr McKenna Cup at the Armagh Athletic Grounds and on Wednesday their Under 21 side stunned a fancied Armagh in the Ulster Under 21 Championship.

The inviting prospect of a hat-trick of wins is now on the cards when John Brennan’s side take on Sligo in an important Allianz League Division Two contest at Markievicz Park tomorrow.

He may have what could be described as a daunting injury-list to contend with but Brennan’s bold gamble in giving newcomers the chance to express themselves earlier in the year is now paying dividends.

The Derry boss is discovering that although some of his more established players may be unavailable, the youthful brigade are showing that they are more than capable of helping to maintain the drive for promotion to Division One.

Danny Devlin, Ciaran Mullan, PJ McCloskey and Ciaran McGoldrick are all expected to be in the vanguard of Derry’s bid to collect maximum points in Sligo thus cementing the belief that the team’s lapse against Laois when they lost by 14 points was merely a temporary blip.

Seasoned full-back Kevin McCloy took over as skipper for the injured Barry McGoldrick in the McKenna Cup final while other old hands — such as Gerard O’Kane, Enda Muldoon and Paddy Bradley — will again bring their experience and craft to the table tomorrow.

Sligo manager Kevin Walsh has grave concerns over whether his ace forward David Kelly will be fit to play and will not make a final decision on his fitness until just before the start. Without Kelly, the Yeats County attack will almost certainly lose some of its bite.

“Obviously we want David in there but at the same time we cannot afford to gamble on him lasting the pace,” says Walsh.

Meanwhile, Fermanagh manager John O’Neill has delayed naming his side to meet Roscommon in a must-win Division Four encounter tomorrow afternoon in Kiltoom.

The Ernesiders, who slumped at home to Longford in the last round, simply cannot afford to lose any more ground in the promotion race and O’Neill is understood to be undecided about the composition of his attack.

Roscommon boss Fergal O’Donnell will be without his contingent of St Brigid’s players who are preparing for the St Patrick’s Day All-Ireland Club final against Crossmaglen Rangers but he can still look to Donie Shine, one of the best finishers in the country, to galvanise his team.

Fermanagh have just three points to date while Roscommon have five but both sides still have ground to make up on pacesetters Longford who have garnered seven points from four outings.

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