Image: Highland Radio
So it’s the Oakleafers for us in Round 2A of the qualifiers the weekend after next. The match will be played at MacHale Park
but when and at what time has yet to be confirmed. The GAA are expected to announce fixture details for all the Round 2A matches later on today. UPDATE: Throw-in time of 5pm has now been confirmed for the game.
Well, then, what do we know about them? They’re managed by former player Damian Barton, who, incidentally, scored a goal against us direct from a 14-yard free in the dying seconds of the 1983 U21 All-Ireland final, bringing that final to a replay, which we won. Ten years later he was on the Derry team that captured the county’s first and so far only All-Ireland senior football title.
Damo’s a bit of a character, by all accounts. This is his second year in charge and he took a fair amount of flak last year when Derry were well beaten by Tyrone in the Ulster quarter-final, so much so that, despite a good qualifier run after that (more on that anon) he threatened to quit if they made it to the All-Ireland Series. They didn’t and neither did he.
The Derry boss has had a few run-ins with officialdom, landing himself an eight-week ban last year for getting involved in a melee and he’s also been at loggerheads with clubs within the county this year over the availability of players. He’s not madly impressed with pundits either – well, a particular unnamed one. Can’t say I blame him there.
Enough about the sideline. On the field Derry are captained by Enda Lynn of Greenlough. If we were all put on the spot and asked to name the stand-out player in their ranks, though, I’d be pretty sure the vast majority would plump for classy Slaughtneil centre-back Chrissy McKaigue.
Like us, Derry will come into Round 2A having played two matches this summer. Their opening one was in the Ulster quarter-final against Tyrone – a repeat meeting from twelve months ago – back in May where Mickey Harte’s impressive Red Hand outfit blew the Oakleafers away by 0-22 to 0-11. If it’s any consolation, Tyrone’s demolition since then of Donegal – where they landed another bagful of points – marks them down as real contenders for the All-Ireland this year. That said, an eleven-point loss is still a bit of a thumping.
Derry struggled in the first half against Waterford down at Fraher Field in their Round 1A qualifier tie last weekend and only led by two at the break. They pulled clear in the second half, though, and won in the end by 1-17 to 0-13.
Looking at their form line further back, they had an unhappy League campaign this spring. Having reached the League final – beating us in the semi-final in the process – as recently as 2014, they dropped out of the top tier in 2015 and narrowly avoided relegation again last year. Points difference saved them from the drop on that occasion but not this spring where they fell through the trapdoor to Division Three.
Their Division Two campaign this year saw them win two, draw one and lose four. The draw – an 0-11 to 1-8 stalemate against Clare at Celtic Park – came in the opening round, following which they shipped a heavy 3-15 to 0-9 beating to Meath in Navan. They bounced back from that one well, though, to see off Kildare by a point (1-18 to 1-17) at home in the next round but then lost by two at home against Down (1-17 to 1-15) in Round 4. Worse followed in the next round when Galway thumped them by 5-15 to 2-15 in Salthill and a 0-20 to 2-10 defeat away to Cork left them facing the drop. They beat Fermanagh, who finished bottom of the Division Two table, by 2-8 to 0-13 in their final match but that wasn’t enough for them to avoid demotion to the third tier.
In their defence, the absence of the Slaughtneil contingent – who were only available for the final two rounds of League games – can’t have helped matters for them. In the end it was that hiding from Meath in February that went a long way towards their points difference relegation.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Oakleafers. Last year they also had an indifferent League run and then took a bad beating from Tyrone in Ulster. They dusted themselves down, though, and got a decent run in the qualifiers, beating Louth in the first round, Meath in the second and then Cavan in the third. Their gallop was finally ended in the fourth round by last year’s surprise packets Tipperary who came out on top in a 1-21 to 2-17 shoot-out at Breffni Park.
Looking at our head-to-head record against them, the last time we met in the League was in 2015 when they were relegated from Division One. We beat them by 2-12 to 1-13 up in Celtic Park in March that year on a day where Mark Ronaldson scored 1-2 for us.
It was also up in Celtic Park where our one and only championship meeting took place, ten years ago, also in the second round of the qualifiers. We started brightly enough that day but faded badly when they upped the ante and we ended up well beaten on a scoreline of 2-13 to 1-6 – my report for the blog on that one is here. As I mentioned the other day, that match saw Ciaran MacDonald’s final appearance, off the bench in the dying minutes, for the county and it was also the second and last appearance for us by Pearse Hanley, who went off to Australia soon after. What might have been, eh?
Back to the here and now, though, to finish off. Paddy Power have chalked us down as decisive 1/5 favourites to do the business in this one. What do you reckon, however – can we down Derry in Round 2A?
Will we beat Derry?
- Yes (83%, 756 Votes)
- No (17%, 153 Votes)
Total Voters: 909