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Derry can take many positives from unbeaten league run, insists Smith

 

John Campbell

By John Campbell

Derry chairman Brian Smith admits that the 21-year Ulster title famine which the county has had to endure is not calculated to raise hopes for the forthcoming provincial championship in which the team could hardly have asked for a more demanding opening assignment.

"To be going in against a Tyrone side which has been playing in Division One and which finished the league with wins over Dublin and Galway is a massive challenge, but this is what you have to be prepared for at this time of the year," concedes Smith.

Yet if silverware has been conspicuous by its absence in Derry, Smith believes that football at grassroots level within the county is still "extremely healthy".

Ten years have elapsed since Derry last won the Allianz League outright, but in more recent years a raft of talent has been unearthed which leads Smith to suggest that better days could be ahead.

"The club scene in particular in Derry is extremely healthy," he points out.

"When you look at what Slaughtneil have achieved and how we have fared at other levels on the club front it has been very encouraging.

"But of course the rank and file fans will not see us as having much chance against Tyrone in our preliminary round Ulster tie on Sunday week. We will be going into that match to give as good as we can and you can't ask any more from players."

Derry boss Damian McErlain is coming to terms with the fact that a wrist injury will rule out Eamon McGill, while Michael McEvoy and Niall Toner are bound for the US.

"Obviously it's disappointing to be without players of this calibre but on the other hand we have chalked up eight wins in the league and although people will say this is only in Division Four, I think there are still positives to be taken from a run like that and hopefully we will do that on Sunday week," states Smith.

"I have no doubt that the players are keen to build on this.

"They are certainly not over-confident but they have belief in their own ability and this being the case I think that anything can happen on the day," he adds.

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