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Derry getting chance to play home quarter-final against Armagh would give us all a huge lift, says Shane McGuigan

 

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Hot shot: Shane McGuigan’s scoring exploits to date could yet count for nothing

Hot shot: Shane McGuigan’s scoring exploits to date could yet count for nothing

�INPHO/Lorcan Doherty

Hot shot: Shane McGuigan’s scoring exploits to date could yet count for nothing

The uncertain future confronting inter-county players throughout the country has triggered anxiety, foreboding and frustration in almost equal measure.

 

It is indicative of the current rapidly changing sporting environment that the sliver of optimism which prevailed following the GAA's statement that county championship action would take place in October was quickly replaced by a doleful acknowledgement of president John Horan's subsequent declaration that an extension of the social distance restriction could rule out any fixtures.

This has forced players to take an introspective view of their careers and for some such as Derry's Shane McGuigan it has triggered mixed emotions.

In his team's five matches to date in Division Three of the Allianz League, the Slaughtneil marksman has totted up 2-28 and if the bulk of his points (20) have come from frees, it nonetheless underlines his immense value to the side.

It was an element of inconsistency that tended to trip Derry up somewhat in the league to date, this particular failing having already appeared to jettison their prospects of promotion.

"We could only manage a draw against Leitrim and we lost to Down when we might have won and that was three points dropped. Then we allowed Cork to build up a big lead before we began to pull it back but time ran out on us in the end," admits McGuigan (22), who is undertaking a PGCE course at Ulster University, Coleraine.

With manager Rory Gallagher having shown faith in fledgling stars such as Padraig McGrogan and Shay Downey, the side is slowly but surely morphing into a neat balance of youth and experience.

But the Oak Leaf county are unlikely to be afforded the opportunity to fulfil their outstanding commitments against Longford and Offaly.

While this is unlikely to perturb too many followers, there will undoubtedly be disappointment should Derry's autumn Ulster Championship quarter-final against Armagh fall foul of an overall fixtures wipe-out.

Understandably, McGuigan's desire to keep posting scores and perhaps see Derry elevated remains intense yet it is tempered by an acceptance that sport in general has been shunted into the sidings.

"It is understandable that containing any further spread of the coronavirus is an absolute priority just now and I can see why people are anxious," says McGuigan, "It's difficult to say just what the immediate future holds. We are in hard times but all the same you have to have some element of positivity."

"But I think, assuming there are games, we can go forward with greater self-belief. It's not looking good, though, in terms of having the league completed while the Ulster Championship is still up in the air, it would seem.

"Having said that, Armagh are an exceptional team and with us due to have home advantage at Celtic Park we would like to think that we can give a good account of ourselves.

"Derry last won the Ulster title in 1998 and that's quite a while ago now so you could say that there is a great appetite for success.

"Obviously everything depends on the severity of the coronavirus threat and social distancing but I feel that a home championship match of this nature could provide a lift for fans after what everyone is going through in the current circumstances."

McGuigan could be said to echo the feelings of inter-county players throughout the province when he says: "I think if there was some form of championship football it would be a bonus. But for the moment I believe we have to take things day by day. While football has its place, there is no doubt that many people are continuing to suffer because of the coronavirus and this keeps everything in perspective."

Derry boss Gallagher, while remaining hopeful that action will be on the cards, is taking a pragmatic overview.

"I don't think anyone is a fan of playing behind closed doors but we all would still like our football," he points out.

"We have to be guided by the medical advice.

"The fact of the matter is that four to six weeks can be quite a long time in the evolution of this virus and things can move on so we will just have to wait and see how everything goes."

Belfast Telegraph