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Cassidy sets his sights on the big picture for Derry

By John Campbell

Even before a ball was kicked in the National Football League, Derry manager Damian Cassidy made it clear that retaining the title was not a priority for him.

Instead, Cassidy stated that survival in Division One would suffice in terms of achievement, insisting that his real goal is to make the Oak Leaf side a championship force.

And although he is currently without several established players because of injury, Cassidy is aware that his side can take a big step towards safety when they host Westmeath on Sunday in Ballinascreen - never the most hospitable of locations for visiting sides.

Cassidy, a 1993 All-Ireland winner with Derry, has maintained his quest for fresh talent and enjoyed an initial boost when his side overcame Mayo in their league opener.

Once again, it will be a case of the new faces show for the meeting with Westmeath.

"I could maybe play safe and go out and pick some of the more experienced players who could be pressed into service but what would I learn that I don’t already know? Nothing at all, I would venture to suggest,” says Cassidy.

"We saw last year what happened when Derry picked up a number of injuries in the full-back line. There was very little cover. There was not, too, the competition up front to really pressurise the players who were established.

"This year, it’s very important that our emerging players be given a chance to develop their experience. They must be given the chance to show that they can put pressure on the established players.”

That’s why Cassidy will again look to his young guns like Enda Lynn (pictured) and James Kielt to shoot down a Westmeath side who were decidedly unlucky to lose to Tyrone in last year’s All Ireland Qualifiers.

"We need to know that we have players who are capable of coming in and performing for us. If you look at Mickey Harte, he used 25 or 26 players in the championship last year. That tells its own story."

Cassidy is confident that his side can make it back to back wins in the league but is taking nothing for granted.

“I was happy to get that win over Mayo - I thought we showed a lot of character and courage given that we were away from home. If we can lift things further against Westmeath, we will be making progress,” says Cassidy.

Belfast Telegraph


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