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We will keep guard up for Limerick tie: McErlain

 

In form: Damian McErlain hopes Derry can keep firing
In form: Damian McErlain hopes Derry can keep firing
John Campbell

By John Campbell

With each passing week, Derry football boss Damian McErlain sees his team's chances of hauling themselves clear of the shackles of Division Four brighten further.

A four-match unbeaten stint, which sees his side top the divisional table on score difference, has now suddenly thrown up the enticing prospect of promotion being secured before the head-to-head clash with joint pacesetters Leitrim at Celtic Park on March 16.

While this is something that is very much on McErlain's radar, he is much more focussed on Saturday's important meeting with fourth placed Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.

A fifth victory on the trot would virtually assure Derry of a much-coveted place in Division Three next term and provide a boost ahead of the Ulster Championship.

Indeed, in their last two league games Derry have home advantage at Celtic Park against a Leitrim side that is blossoming under ex-Cavan boss Terry Hyland and they will also be in familiar surroundings when they face Wexford at Owenbeg on March 24.

McErlain promises that his side will leave nothing to chance, though. Derry have experienced far too many setbacks in recent years to take anything for granted and that's why McErlain sees victory tomorrow as "absolutely essential" in his team's drive for enhanced status in the league.

"Limerick only lost to Leitrim by a point, they will be playing at home and they will still see themselves as having a chance of possible promotion so we will be on our guard," says McErlain.

"We have been getting players back and new guys have been coming in and doing well for us but we are still very much a work in progress.

"Obviously it was a blow to Derry pride to take the tumble into Division Four but that's a situation we have to get ourselves out of.

"It's absolutely essential that we keep winning. We have three big games ahead of us and no matter what has happened to date this does not guarantee us anything going into the concluding stages of the league."

Limerick have beaten London (0-11 to 0-10) and Waterford (1-13 to 0-10) but lost to Wicklow and Leitrim.

Derry may be without Ciaran McFaul tomorrow and this could be a blow as he was hugely influential in their most recent victory over Wicklow. However, with Christopher Bradley, Emmett Bradley, Chrissy McKaigue, Padraig Cassidy and Shane McGuigan in fine form, the Oak Leaf side have a solid springboard from which to plot what could prove to be their most important win of the year to date.

Ryan Dougan and Declan Hughes are two players who are beginning to find their feet at inter-county level and manager McErlain hopes to have the vastly experienced Enda Lynn back to full fitness shortly.

Derry may have been in the doldrums in recent years but the county side's surge to the top of Division Four has spawned rather more enthusiasm within what is regarded as a notoriously fickle support base.

So much so, indeed, that they look set to enjoy rather more vocal support tomorrow than they might normally enjoy.

With Leitrim also anxious to maintain their winning streak, the stage is set for what should prove a fascinating climax to the overall action in the basement division.

Should McErlain's men make it into Division Three, they could still be the only Ulster side there as Paddy Tally's Down side have their sights set on promotion to Division Two.

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