Kielt and Lynch double act set to inspire Derry to much needed success
Up until last Sunday, Derry manager Damian McErlain had been happy to hold experienced duo James Kielt and Mark Lynch in reserve, preferring to deploy them from the bench as his team struggled to find cohesion in Division Three of the Allianz League.
But after taking the decision to plunge the pair into his starting line-up against Fermanagh, McErlain had considerable reason to hail their contribution to a battling second-half performance that ultimately just fell short of garnering two much-needed points.
Between them Kielt and Lynch landed 2-5 out of Derry's 3-8 total, a prodigious input which, even if it did not chart the way to victory, still affords McErlain considerable cause for optimism as his side prepare to embark on a demanding concluding phase to the league which embraces assignments against Armagh, Wexford and Sligo.
Derry looked to be on their knees when they trailed by 1-12 to 1-3 at half-time against Fermanagh before a second-half renaissance that highlighted the new spirit within the team.
Now as his side seek to haul themselves clear of the relegation zone, McErlain is conscious that experience will be required in spades if Derry are to get a second league win to complement their earlier success against Offaly.
"There is no doubt that experienced players can give a side a lift and obviously we will be seeking a much better start in our remaining games than that which we had against Fermanagh," states McErlain.
"You can work on your game plan all you like but you have to get out there and get stuck in so that you can win breaking ball and take the game to the opposition. Fermanagh were hungrier and sharper than us in the first-half and although we managed to trim back their lead in the second-half they still came out on top."
Carlus McWilliams, Enda Lynn, Emmett Bradley, Padraig McGrogan and Michael Bateson are among players who have been showing consistency for Derry while Danny Tallon and Benny Heron have also been chipping in with useful contributions.
The wily Lynn and the hard-working Bradley have been very much to the fore this year while McGrogan has made a seamless transition from minor player to senior team regular.
Bateson has returned to the team after an absence and has been impressive in defence while Tallon and Herron are useful forwards.
Herron has been part of the Derry set-up for some time and is regarded as a quality finisher while Tallon, who made an initial impression last year, is recapturing the form that earned him recognition in the first place.
But it's Kielt and Lynch in particular, both of whom are big, powerful players, who have been showing the kind of strength and finishing skills that are necessary to chart progress in a ferociously competitive Division Two.
"The remainder of the league programme is going to be very interesting indeed and it goes without saying that we cannot afford to drop any more points," admits McErlain.
"We have three more games in which to make up lost ground and we have to focus on achieving this."
Meanwhile, Mayo will appeal the eight-week ban handed down to coach Tony McEntee.
The 2002 Armagh All-Ireland winner was given the suspension following an incident during Mayo's fiery league clash against Galway.
In what was a torrid game, Mayo forward Cillian O'Connor also picked up a suspension after he was sent off but the Connacht side have accepted his punishment.
However, McEntee's case will be heard before the CCCC in the next few weeks as he bids to have the decision overturned.
Donegal have been dealt a blow now that Conor Morrison is likely to be out of action for up to two months. Donegal will be without the defender for six weeks minimum.
It is understood that he fractured his ankle in training, having been an unused substitute in the win over Kildare in Ballyshannon last Sunday.
Morrison suffered a concussion earlier this season but recovered to make his first 2018 appearance with Donegal in their McKenna Cup final win over Tyrone.
He is hopeful of recovering in time for their Ulster SFC tie against Cavan on May 13.