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Derry's new boss Damian Barton cracking the whip

By John Campbell

New Derry football boss Damien Barton is already cracking the whip as he steps up his preparations for the 2016 season.

Having completed an assessment of a platoon of new talent in a series of trial games, Barton is now trimming the list of players that he may include in his initial panel.

But that will be some way off yet as he prepares in the meantime to monitor Slaughtneil's progress in the Ulster Club football championship while also observing the dual players who will be on duty with Coleraine Eoghan Rua in Sunday's Ulster Club Intermediate championship hurling final against Antrim champions Kickhams Creggan.

Derry are not due to resume training until December 1 by which time Barton hopes not only to have his panel in place but a structured programme mapped out that could bring success next term.

A member of the Derry side that won the county's only All-Ireland title to date in 1993, Barton acquired a considerable level of success as a player and is particularly anxious to see a passion and fervour for Oak Leaf glory rekindled.

Now that Brian McGuckin will be settling into his role as coach and Michael Conlan has come on board as goalkeeping coach with Tony Scullion acting in an advisory capacity, Barton is convinced that he has the personnel to back up his thrust for success.

McGuckin is a former Tyrone minor and under-21 player and is highly-rated by Newbridge native Barton who has been in charge of Kilrea recently.

"Brian is from Ballinderry stock and is currently playing for Edendork and managing Coalisland.

"He is young and ambitious and I like what he does," he says.

"I like the relationship he can strike up with his players which is a very important thing. You play the way you train in my book and I think Brian's involvement will be good for Derry," insists Barton.

Indeed, McGuckin is not the only player-coach to have found himself doubly engaged this year.

Former Derry forward Conleith Gilligan turned out for Ballinderry in recent months while at the same time serving as part of the Maghery club's management team during their campaign in the Armagh league and championship.

The acquisition of Conlan, now running his own gymnasium, is seen as a boost in terms of honing goalkeeping skills within the panel.

The Ballinderry man has garnered honours in the game and is now keen to play a part in bringing Derry out of the championship doldrums.

Barton's immediate task will be to run the rule over players like Patsy Bradley, Brendan Rogers, Chrissy McKaigue, Karol McKaigue and Cormac O'Doherty as they bid to help Slaughtneil land back-to-back Ulster Club titles.

O'Doherty has yet to earn his county spurs but such has been his penchant for grabbing important goals at club level that he may well enter Barton's thinking for his initial panel.

When Coleraine Eoghan Rua encounter Down representatives Ballela in their Ulster Junior club hurling championship final this Sunday, Niall Holly, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Declan Mullan and Ciaran McGoldrick will be among the dual players taking part.

Barton looks certain to blood new players in his side during the McKenna Cup in January as a prelude to launching a concerted drive for promotion back up into Division One when the Allianz League commences.

"Obviously with five Ulster teams in the mix, Division Two is going to be hugely competitive, like a mini-provincial championship you might say.

"The pressure will be on from the outset and we have to be ready for this challenge.

"I want the players to show pride in the Derry jersey and make a good start to the year and then see where that takes us," points out Barton.

Belfast Telegraph


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