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Derry boss Damien Barton: bring on the physical battles

By John Campbell

Derry manager Damien Barton believes the sparks which have flown between his side and Tyrone this year have been "exaggerated out of all proportion".

Barton, preparing to sample his first taste of Ulster Championship action as a manager against Mickey Harte's outfit when the sides meet at the quarter-final stage later this month, plays down the possibility that the game could produce fireworks.

"I think the media has exaggerated things that have happened out of all proportion," insists Barton. "It obviously makes good Press and helps to sell newspapers. What do you want to do? Do you want to look back at the history of the GAA and the physical confrontation of what this game is all about?"

"One of the beauties of the sport is that it is a contest between 15 players on each side but I can't see that there are any sparks going to fly between Derry and Tyrone no more than they are going to fly in any other contest."

Barton himself served a two-month ban after incidents marred the Dr McKenna Cup final between the sides at the end of January.

"I think it is a perception that the Ulster Championship is abrasive and over-physical.

"I am sure if you asked people from teams in any other province that are competing against each other you would find that there is physicality in their games as well.

"Certainly when we play against any of the southern teams I can't see any difference from a physical point of view."

"I think it is a notion as much as anything else. I think when southern teams have been turned over by the work-rate and absolute passion of some of the northern teams sometimes they have cried 'foul' but at the end of the day it's a competitive environment."

Tyrone have never won an Ulster Championship match at Celtic Park but Barton dismisses historical statistics.

The Red Hands are unbeaten in 15 matches since mid-December while Derry blew hot and cold in the league so it's no surprise that the O'Neill county are favourites to advance to the semi-finals.

"I didn't know that Tyrone have never won there to be honest with you," says Barton. "I don't care either.

As far as I am concerned this forthcoming game against them is a unique situation for me and this group of Derry players.

"We are very much in development as much as anything else so we are looking at it very positively.

"We have certain things that we would like to apply ourselves to on that day and hopefully the outcome of this will give us a foothold and perhaps victory in the game."

Meanwhile, Down skipper Kevin McKernan is urging the GAA authorities to consider implementing a Championship draw format that guarantees a team at least one home game every two years. This year, they are away to Monaghan, the reigning Ulster champions.

"We seem to be always on the road when it comes to the Championship. We have managed to take teams back to Newry by forcing replays but it would be nice to come out of the hat first with home advantage.

"I think all teams should be given this chance."

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