We're progressing nicely, says Derry boss McIver
Derry manager Brian McIver had hoped that the O'Fiaich Cup competition would provide him with additional selection options in advance of the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup and the Allianz League.
But his aspirations have already been exceeded although McIver is taking nothing for granted as he approaches Sunday's final against Armagh at Crossmaglen.
In Wednesday night's semi-final win over the Orchard county, it was an infusion of scoring prowess combined with physical power from the bench that re-energised Derry to such an extent in the last quarter that they won by 4-16 to 2-13. Yet McIver is treading cautiously as he ponders his team's renewal of rivalry with an Armagh side for whom Wednesday's result was their first defeat in the competition.
"A large number of players have been given game time so far and quite a number have impressed," revealed McIver.
"Obviously we will have another chance to assess our resources on Sunday. You want keen competition for places in the side and don't forget we have no Ballinderry players available to us at this point in time."
Cailean O'Boyle, James Kielt and Aaron Kerrigan in particular impressed against Armagh, their arrival coinciding with a scoring burst which yielded 2-5 and propelled Derry to their handsome nine-point victory.
But while his more seasoned players ultimately provided the passport to victory, McIver is quick to laud the efforts of his younger players several of whom are currently making a bold pitch for regular recognition in the side.
In this respect, Emmett Bradley is impressing at midfield – he scored 1-3 against Armagh – while Niall McFeely is revealing the creative flair that he showed in Foreglen's run to the Derry intermediate championship title.
Ciaran McGoldrick, too, is looking sharp right now while Carlus McWilliams and James Kearney covet a sustained run in the team.
Defensively, McIver is leaning on the skill and physique of players like Charlie Kielt, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Dermot McBride and Mark Craig to bolster his side.
Oisin Duffy, Ciaran Conway, Karl McKaigue and Peter Cassidy are among other players currently knocking on the door.
McIver and his management team which comprises Paddy Tally, Bernie Henry, Jody Wilson and Paul McIver are leaving no stone unturned in a concerted bid to see Derry get into their stride from early January.
"We would like to start as we mean to go on but then every team will harbour this hope. It has become more essential to make an early impact," says ambitious McIver.