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Derry in with a chance of instant redemption

 

By Declan Bogue

As disappointing as defeat in the Ulster Championship can be, all five Ulster sides that were pulled out of the hat for round one of the qualifiers have a serious chance of progressing to the next stage.

Only Derry, defeated by Donegal in the quarter-final on Sunday, are up against a team ranked higher than them in the National League standings.

However, with Kildare losing in spectacular fashion to Carlow, and the game fixed for Celtic Park, Damian McErlain's men have a serious chance of putting respectability on their season.

Tyrone have drawn Meath away, who unexpectedly lost to Longford, Cavan are away to Wicklow in Aughrim - the graveyard of many Ulster sides' hopes in the past - while Armagh have to travel to Cusack Park in Mullingar to face Westmeath in a qualifier for the second successive year.

Antrim manager Lenny Harbinson - who tasted defeat in his first Ulster Championship match on the touchline against Down on Saturday night - has thrown down a challenge to his players to go on a run in the backdoor and not allow their season to fizzle out having not secured promotion from Division Four. They have been drawn away to Offaly in Tullamore.

"Carlow last year, who got promoted from Division Four this year, embraced the back door," the St Gall's man pointed out.

"Although they might have lost against Dublin and Monaghan, we're trying to build a bit of momentum.

"It's good quality opposition, it will allow the players to get a bit more experience of playing at that level and that's what it comes down to."

Pete McGrath's Louth side have a trip away to London and, after losing all seven of their National League games and then to Carlow in the Leinster Championship by 11 points, the 1991 and '94 All-Ireland winner will be desperately hoping not to slip up against a side that will be dangerous at home.

However, the tie of the round will be in Navan when Tyrone take on home side Meath.

The two last met in the qualifiers in a round two game in 2015, the Red Hands requiring a late push to eventually pull clear.

With a lot of criticism flowing the way of Mickey Harte in the wake of that game, and a host of injury worries hanging over Lee Brennan, Mark Bradley and Colm Cavanagh, they will be looking for a huge performance.

Meanwhile, Down midfielder Peter Turley, who wasman-of-the-match in their Ulster quarter-final win over Antrim on Saturday, has revealed how much they were able to draw on selector Gearoid Adams' knowledge of his county men in their win.

"Gearoid told us what we already knew, that Antrim have really talented individuals," stated Turley.

"Some of their players are as good as what's in Ulster. Sometimes they don't always show that. I don't know why that is - that's for Antrim to sort out.

"They've really good players, but they just don't seem to click together.

"Gearoid was saying that we can't give them any opportunities to get out in front and get their confidence up or they will come at us."

Down managed to handle the favourites tag and lived up to the pre-match billing well.

"It was unknown territory for us coming into an Ulster Championship game as favourites," noted Turley.

"We know Championship and league are two different ball games.

"They are played at very different intensities, as last year proved.

"We just came in with a game plan and stuck to it."

Down are now paired with Donegal in the second Ulster semi-final.

However, Turley insisted they haven't given their opponents too much thought.

"They last met in the Ulster semi-final of 2013, having faced each other in the 2012 final.

"We are confident in our own ability, but we never looked past Antrim.

"We knew, after being relegated, if we had lost to Antrim, no disrespect to them, we would have been slated."

Belfast Telegraph

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