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Oak Leafers lose players, but McIver remains confident

By John Campbell

It's that time of year again. No, not just a period when the destination of trophies is being decided but instead when there are wholesale defections from county squads.

Tyrone set the ball rolling when half-a-dozen players took the exit door, then Cavan lost a couple of high-profile players before Antrim were stripped of the services of three players.

Now Derry must go into today's All-Ireland qualifier against Galway in the knowledge that they have become the latest team to haemorrhage players.

Conor McAtamney, Terence O'Brien and Emmet Bradley have called a premature halt to their season at inter-county level for that all-too-familiar reason - lack of game time in matches that really matter as opposed to Dr McKenna Cup action in freezing January.

While the majority of those players ignored from the different counties may have felt that they had genuine claims for stronger recognition in their teams, a few engaged in that well-known practice of throwing the dummy out of the pram.

Nor do the majority of them turn their backs on the county jersey with the intention of helping their clubs or putting their feet up.

The lure of financial gain in the US can often provide considerable compensation for non-involvement with their county squad - a case of now you see them, now you don't.

No matter, Derry boss Brian McIver remains strongly focused on seeing his team hurdle a Galway outfit that banished Armagh from the All-Ireland series last week.

No stranger to working with depleted resources, the determined McIver will have his unchanged line-up suitably fired up to deal with a Galway challenge that will be both robust and skilful.

"There's not a lot you can do when players decide to leave," says McIver.

"But our total focus as a squad is on getting over Galway."

The Oak Leaf outfit, whose courageous effort against Donegal in the Ulster semi-final has been one of the stand-out displays of the season to date, glided past Wexford last weekend and should McIver elicit a replication of the spirit and fluency that underpinned that performance then a place in the last 12 of the All-Ireland series could become a reality.

Derry are suitably armed for today's challenge as Niall Holly and Fergal Doherty can hold their own against Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Thomas Flynn at midfield, Cailean O'Boyle and Eoin Bradley can pose problems for Fintan Hanley and Johnny Duane up front and Dermot McBride and Oisin Duffy can come out in top in their anticipated man-marking jobs against the dangerous Michael Lundy and Damien Comer.

Galway led Armagh by 1-12 to 0-8 going into the third quarter of last weekend's game and although they came under pressure, they still managed to close out the contest.

Their manager Kevin Walsh acknowledged that Armagh were "well set up" but he can expect that Derry will be similarly prepared today given that McIver's players appear to have adapted comfortably to his current system of playing .

One thing is certain - should Bradley and O'Boyle in particular be plied with ample possession, then they can hurt Galway on the scoreboard.

And, assuming they remain vigilant at the back then it could be upwards and onwards for Derry.

Derry (v Galway): T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, D McBride; L McGoldrick, B Rogers, S L McGoldrick; N Holly, F Doherty; B Heron, M Lynch, E Lynn; D Heavron, E Bradley, C O'Boyle.

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