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Kielt’s experience is key to Derry

By John Campbell

Derry manager Damian Cassidy had hoped that he might not have required an input from James Kielt in last Sunday’s defeat by Kerry in the National Football League, but in the event he found it necessary to pitch the Kilrea sharpshooter into the action midway through the second-half.

It was too late, though, for Kielt to influence the outcome, but Cassidy is hoping that the talented Kilrea clubman will have a much bigger say when he lines out against Tyrone in the Ulster under-21 football championship preliminary round tie at Healy Park, Omagh (8.00pm) tonight.

Kielt (pictured) is one of two Derry players with senior experience who will be in the Oak Leaf mix although there are doubts about the fitness of Declan Mullan.

Cassidy is hopeful that Kielt’s scoring touch will bolster the Derry side against a Tyrone outfit that may provide Mickey Harte with some solace following four defeats on the bounce at senior level.

“We wanted to give James a break before this game and I have no doubt that he will respond to the demands of the occasion,” said Cassidy.

“Declan is still feeling the effects of his injury and there is some doubt about him.

“Overall though there is a decent level of skill and commitment within this Derry side and obviously an encouraging result tonight would prove a pointer for the future.”

Kyle Coney and Ronan McNabb were not considered by manager Harte for Tyrone’s National League Division One defeat at the hands of Monaghan on Sunday in Inniskeen, but Coney in particular will have a front-stage role tonight.

The Ardboe player, who had a brief flirtation with Australian Rules Football, made a decisive impact in the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup competition, but has yet to stamp his imprint on the National League.

However, an impressive display tonight will do his prospects of perhaps achieving this particular aim no harm.

Matthew Donnelly is another talented forward to whom Tyrone will be looking for scores tonight.

Like Coney, Donnelly has already taken his first steps at senior level and his speed and finishing is likely to keep the Derry rearguard at full-stretch.

The Ulster under-21 Championship will not move into overdrive until March 24 when the quarter-finals are scheduled and champions Down will be putting their title on the line.

Tyrone, though, are particularly keen to prove their worth in this sector and Harte will be a more than interested observer tonight as he ponders the make-up of his side for Saturday night’s important league tie against unbeaten Cork at Healy Park.

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