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Strength in depth is key for title-chasing Derry

By John Campbell

Derry manager John Brennan could yet find himself with an embarrassment of riches for the Ulster senior football final against Donegal on July 17.

When Kevin McGuckin and James Kielt were drafted in at the eleventh hour to face Armagh in the semi-final earlier this month in place of Kevin McCloy and Caolan O'Boyle, Derry's mechanism and fluency were not impeded in the least.

And as if to underline his desire to spark even more intense competition for places, Brennan used four substitutes in that game, with three of them introduced in the last ten minutes when the Oak Leaf side had already assured themselves of a place in the decider.

But it was in making his first substitution that Brennan showed his determination to ensure defensive solidity.

Brian Og McAlarey was whipped off after 22 minutes with Ciaran Mullan going on before Caolan O'Boyle, Emmet McGuckin and Ciaran McGoldrick were subsequently afforded a few minutes game time as their team cantered down the home straight.

They replaced three of Derry's best performers on the day - Enda Muldoon, Eoin Bradley and Mark Lynch.

Having dissected the Donegal v Tyrone semi-final clash on Sunday, Brennan is already drawing up his blueprint for the final against Jim McGuinnes' side who claimed the Oak Leaf scalp when the sides met in the National League (2-18 to 2-12) - a defeat that rankled with Brennan who had watched his side also fall to Tyrone in the competition.

Kevin McCloy had originally been listed at full-back against Armagh but was replaced by Kevin McGuckin, who just recently returned to the Derry squad after a long lay-off because of injury.

McGuckin, a member of the Ballinderry side that won the All-Ireland club title in 2002, brings with him considerable experience to the Derry rearguard and provides an added option for Brennan.

Lavey clubman McCloy though who played in the opening round Ulster championship win over Fermanagh is expected to be in contention for a place in the Ulster final while Gerard O'Kane, who captained the side last season, is also hoping to be fit to face Donegal.

Like McCloy, O'Kane missed the semi-final win over Armagh but is particularly keen to face his team's north-west neighbours in what could prove to be one of the most fascinating Ulster finals for many years.

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