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Australian Rules is taking a heavy toll on Derry's resources, says Cassidy

 

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Big call: Damian Cassidy believes Derry need more midfield power

Big call: Damian Cassidy believes Derry need more midfield power

�INPHO/Philip Magowan

Big call: Damian Cassidy believes Derry need more midfield power

Former Derry All-Ireland winner Damian Cassidy believes that the current Oak Leaf side will require to be "beefed up" if they are to make significant headway in the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships.

With manager Rory Gallagher having already acknowledged that his team's chances of achieving promotion from Division Three are pencil-slim, Cassidy, who guided Cargin to the Antrim senior football title last year, makes no bones about what he views as essential remedial action if his native county is to make an impression when action resumes.

"I am convinced that Derry require considerable strengthening in midfield in particular," points out Cassidy, an outstanding forward in his county's only capture of the Sam Maguire Cup to date in 1993.

"When you look at it, Derry has provided Australian Rules Football with three players - Conor Glass, Anto Tohill and Calum Brown - all of whom are powerful physical specimens who would provide tremendous bulk and power to the present side if they were available."

Cassidy is adamant that any side seeking to leave an imprint on the championship must of necessity be laden with effective midfield armoury.

"There is no doubt that lack of midfield authority is a killer for Derry," insists the Bellaghy man, who managed Derry from 2008 until 2010. "Take a look at the current Dublin line-up that every other side aspires to at least match. They can play the likes of Brian Fenton and James McCarthy, for instance, in the middle and the harder and the tougher it gets, the more they revel in it.

"And when you throw in the build of Ciaran Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly, Con O'Callaghan and others, you're talking about really big men who can brush off tackles and keep attacking movements in full flow.

"Don't get me wrong - Derry have a lot of decent players but it's in the crucial central area that they lack a commanding physical presence, as I see it."

Just how Derry bring the curtain down on what has been a somewhat erratic campaign in Division Three remains to be seen as they have outstanding fixtures against Longford (home) and Offaly (away) to fulfil.

With the GAA authorities having already indicated that it is their intention to re-schedule those games which could have an impact on promotion or relegation issues, the chances are that Derry will get to finish their league itinerary - for better or worse.

But it's the team's Ulster Championship quarter-final against Armagh at Celtic Park that is already viewed as a seminal contest.

Cassidy, clearly concerned with what he views as a haemorrhaging of Derry talent, compares the drain of youthful starlets to that of some of the leading teams.

"Would Dublin, Kerry or Mayo have lost so much talent?" queries Cassidy. "The answer is no. Tyrone temporarily lost Cathal McShane but he is now back although he is injured at present while Conor McKenna is also expected to be available again for the Red Hands at some point in the future."

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte in particular is a long-term critic of the manner in which AFL scouts lure some of the GAA's more precociously talented players Down Under and Cassidy maintains that everything possible should be done to keep those same players involved in gaelic football.

Belfast Telegraph