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Oak Leaf boss McIver is calling on Derry to get tough

By John Campbell

Derry plan to show a mean streak against Wexford on Saturday in their efforts to make progress in the All-Ireland football qualifiers against.

In each of the last two years, the Oak Leafs have conceded heavy scores in exiting the competition and now manager Brian McIver is urging a repetition of the kind of defensive vigilance which marked his team's display for the most part when they were pipped by Donegal in the Ulster semi-final.

It was in 2013 that Derry lost to Cavan by 1-22 to 0-20 in the third round and then last year it was rather more embarrassing when they leaked 2-16 while landing 2-14 in going out to Longford at the first hurdle.

Those back-to-back qualifier setbacks occasioned a deep sense of disappointment within Derry and indeed disenchantment with the county team.

But there are indications that this summer could prove more fruitful for the Oak Leafs despite that defeat to Donegal.

"I could not fault the players for effort and commitment against Donegal," stated McIver.

"Now the challenge is to step up further on this kind of work-rate and tackling against Wexford on Saturday. It will take this if we are to make it into the next round."

In the absence of injured wing-backs Kevin Johnston and Ciaran McFaul, Dermot McBride and Chrissy McKaigue will be expected to give a lead in offering resistance to a Wexford side that is an amalgam of youth and experience.

McBride was superb against Donegal, helping to shackle the Ulster champions' attack while still finding time and space in which to launch telling counter-thrusts which forced them onto the back foot.

But the Ballinascreen clubman, while pleased with his team's frugality against Rory Gallagher's side, warns that Wexford will be keen to plunder scores following their fine win over Down in the previous round.

Donegal only managed to record 1-9 against Derry because of the manner in which McIver set his side up yet his players were far from consumed with defensive ploys.

Indeed, the Oak Leafs broke the gain-line regularly against Donegal - something that teams normally encounter difficulty in achieving even with bountiful possession.

McBride, conscious that the loss of Johnston and McFaul could be felt and aware too that Brendan Rogers, if selected, will be playing in only his third championship match, is emphatic that safety first must be the Derry mantra.

"If you look at the scores we conceded in going out of the qualifiers in 2013 and last year, it's quite clear why we lost," pointed out McBride.

"But it's a whole new ball game now. We have that decent display against Donegal under our belts, we are at home and we played in Division One this year. While these elements guarantee us nothing, they give us the incentive to go flat out for victory and that's important."

While Wexford's win over Down created considerable surprise, the scorer of their two goals in that game, Naomhan Rossiter, pinpoints what he believes to be a major plus factor within the side.

UCD student Rossiter is one of several players recently introduced to the line-up and he said: "The more experienced players are giving new boys like me every encouragement and that appears to be working for us in terms of the effort we are putting in and the spirit we are showing.

"It's great when you are made to feel part of the team and although we did not have a good league campaign, that win over Down has given us confidence.

"We don't feel under any pressure which is a good thing because that might help us play better. We want to do ourselves justice but we know that we will not find it easy to get scores because Derry will want to be as tight at the back as they were against Donegal."

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