The city of Derry has long been regarded as a soccer stronghold. Indeed it has bred many great players several of whom have gone on to achieve recognition on the international stage.
In contrast, the profile of the GAA in the Maiden City has for some time been low-key although the Sean Dolans and Na Magha clubs have ensured that the flag has been kept flying.
Now renewed efforts are being made to muster fresh support for Derry GAA and the county football team in particular from within the city.
A meeting which took place on Thursday night debated the proposal of forming a supporters club within the city and it is now hoped that this will be up and running shortly.
Indeed, county board officials are hoping that city-based followers will come out in numbers to get behind the side for tomorrow’s Power NI Dr McKenna Cup clash with Cavan at Celtic Park which of course adjoins the Brandywell, the spiritual home of Derry soccer.
Manager John Brennan certainly welcomes the potential swelling of the Derry fan base.
“Maybe Derry fans have not had a lot to shout about over recent years but we got to the Ulster final last year and now we will try to kick on from there,” says Brennan.
“The more people that get behind the side, the better.”
The bulk of Derry’s support has traditionally come from the south of the county but now it is hoped that the city itself will prove a rich source of vocal backing for the Oak Leaf side.
For tomorrow afternoon’s tie against a Cavan outfit that will include several of last year’s successful Under 21 outfit, Brennan will field a mixture of youth and experience.
Over half of the players who started last year’s Ulster final against Donegal will take a back seat on the day while John McCamley (Glen) and Kevin O’Neill (Lavey) will be brought together at midfield.
The former has been particularly impressive with his club and Brennan believes that these two players will offer him engine-room options.
“It is a fact that we had a lot of injuries in this sector last year and we need plenty of cover,” maintains Brennan.
Cavan manager Val Andrews will look to Gearoid McKiernan, Michael Reilly, Mark McKeever and David Givney to spark his team’s challenge.
Donegal, meanwhile, have been quietly working on their fitness and stamina levels and may carry too much power for the UUJ students at O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny.
Leo McCloone is expected to be brought back by manager Jim McGuinness.
And experienced players like Karl Lacey, Colm McFadden and Rory Kavanagh are also expected to be in a mix against a weakened UUJ side.
“We will be without some players for a variety of reasons but we will certainly be hoping to stretch Donegal,” says UUJ coach Adrian McGuckin.
“They are of course Ulster champions and as such are on a pedestal right now.”