Derry newcomers out to show McIver their potential
The route to progress within the GAA is clearly defined – and there is certainly no easy way to the top.
But for two Derry players, the dawn of 2014 offers the opportunity to move in more august circles.
Peter Cassidy and Niall McFeely find themselves now jostling for regular places in Brian McIver's side, even though they are still relatively unknown.
The strapping Cassidy caught the eye with his impressive performances at midfield when St Patrick's College Maghera won the MacRory Cup and Hogan Cup last year, while McFeely represented the heartbeat of the Foreglen side that charted a spirited course through to the closing stages of the Ulster Intermediate club championship.
Both are in the Oak Leaf squad for the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup and could possibly sample action when Monaghan are the opposition in Sunday's opener.
McFeeley's creativity and finishing prowess had much to do with Foreglen's advancement in 2013 when they emerged from anonymity to initially claim headlines by winning the Derry intermediate title before going on to cement their burgeoning reputation on the provincial stage.
Now he is in the frame to further boost his career while Cassidy, who was afforded fleeting game time during Derry's successful safari in the O'Fiaich Cup last month, is presented with the chance to scrap for a midfield berth in the face of what is extremely tough opposition since Patsy Bradley, Fergal Doherty, Niall Holly, Mark Lynch and Emmet Bradley are among those coveting engine-room slots.
Yet manager McIver offers an incentive to his emerging talent when he says: "In winning the O'Fiaich Cup, we were able to look at a number of players and assess them closely. We are now going into the McKenna Cup knowing that we will have at least three games with the possibility of another one or two should we reach the closing stages and this will give us a further opportunity to weigh up our options.
"By the time it comes to start the league in February, we should have a fair idea of where we are at in terms of our playing resources."
After their meeting with Ulster champions Monaghan on Sunday, Derry will face Fermanagh at Owenbeg on Sunday week and St Mary's at the same venue on January 15.
The semi-finals will be played on Sunday, January 19 while the final has been fixed for Saturday, January 25.