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Brian McIver is upbeat ahead of big tie with Dublin

By John Campbell

Brian McIver eats, drinks and sleeps Derry football. The county manager's passion, commitment and sincerity are bywords not just within Oak Leaf territory but throughout the country.

So when Derry made an early exit from the Ulster U21 championship earlier this month it can be safely assumed that the popular McIver felt the disappointment as keenly as the players.

The fact that half-a-dozen of the Derry U21 squad are now available for tomorrow's crucial Allianz League Division One game against Dublin in Croke Park could be said to prove some form of 'compensation', but McIver's desire to see his county's teams succeed at all levels is always palpable.

Derry are marooned at the bottom of the divisional table with just one point from five games and even a shock victory over the Dubs would not be their passport to safety such is the thin ice on which Tyrone and Donegal are also skating which makes their quest for points desperate - and they clash on Sunday, too.

A league campaign which to date has brought hope, frustration and controversy for McIver will now climax not only with tomorrow's joust with Jim Galvin's side but a Celtic Park battle with table-toppers Cork on Sunday week.

"This time last year we were in the league final against Dublin but now we are going to them fighting for our Division One lives," said McIver.

"Still, while results have not gone our way to date, I can't question some of our performances."

His team's solitary point was garnered in a draw against Tyrone, a contentious last-gasp point for the Red Hands evoking Derry ire, while the inexplicable dismissal of Mark Lynch against Kerry and some questionable refereeing decisions against Mayo served to heighten McIver's exasperation to date.

The return of James Kearney, Terence O'Brien, Ciaran McFaul, Neil McNicholl and Conor McAtamney among others to senior duty is offset to some extent by Mark Craig's absence through injury.

Emmet McGuckin and Fergal Doherty could get game time at Headquarters but McIver is still without Slaughtneil duo Patsy Bradley and Chrissy McKaigue who were the mainstay of his side last year.

While Dublin have been unable to achieve a high level of consistency they have been slowly re-introducing their big guns to the fray.

While McIver, with considerable justification, can lament the absence of a number of influential performers, he is much more focused on eliciting the best performances he can from those he has at his disposal.

"The 15 players who will start for us tomorrow night and those that come on as substitutes will, I am very confident, do their very best to try and keep us up," added the defiant Derry boss.

Derry: T Mallon; O Duffy, N Holly, K Johnston; L McGoldrick, C McAtamney, M McIver; M Lynch, E Bradley; S L McGoldrick, D Heavron, E Lynn; B Heron, E McGuckin, J Kielt.

Belfast Telegraph

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