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Acid test for McCorry’s men

June 1, 2015

USF Championship Down v Derry Celtic Park at 2pm

Make no mistake about it Celtic Park is the acid test for any manager, not a place you would want in your first Ulster championship, but such is the lot drawn by Down manager Jim McCorry. The new man at the helm would have been delighted with the League campaign (the final being the exception) gaining promotion to the top flight with Derry replacing them in Division Two for next year. The difference between League and championship is akin to chalk and cheese and Sunday will give both management teams a real insight into what they have in hand after a few months of sussing out playing and positional options.

The real contest is about to begin now that the shadow boxing is over, the players identified as being injured will have miraculously recovered; it is the ones not mentioned who will in fact miss out. All sorts of pre match nonsense will count for naught when the ball is thrown in, remember the Down player taking part in the pre-match parade only to disappear into the Enniskillen dugout as the ball was thrown in. Not since Tyrone in their heyday have theatricals won Ulster Championship matches.

Both camps have been low key in advance of this fixture, Down coming in off the back of a Division Two Final loss, Derry after relegation to Division Two.

Two years ago Down went to Celtic Park and produced one of the best performances of the McCartan era to beat Derry convincingly but returned within the month to surrender tamely in the Qualifiers.

The shadow boxing is over, the players identified as being injured will have miraculously recovered; it is the ones not mentioned who will in fact miss out. All sorts of pre match nonsense will count for naught when the ball is thrown in, remember the Down player taking part in the pre-match parade only to disappear into the Enniskillen dugout as the ball was thrown in. Not since Tyrone in their heyday have theatricals won Ulster Championship matches.

The two teams are quite close to call. Jim McCorry has added huge work rate to the Down make up but they are still a relatively small side as County teams go. However their never say die attitude which was a hall mark of their League campaign saw them swing a couple of close calls in their favour most notably in Kildare.

Defensively Stephen Kane has settled comfortably into goals and exudes confidence for those in front of him.

That full back line is probably the most complete full back line Down has had since 2010. Luke Howard and Darren O’Hagan have been or been close to Man of the Match in all of Down’s League matches and whether it’s Gerard Collins, Benny McArdle or Damian Turley who completes the trio they will not be found wanting.

Benny McArdle and Damian Turley will vie for positions on the half back line with Conal McGovern and it’s hard to see a Down Championship team minus the steel Conor Garvey brings to the fray though his game time has decreased over the season. Aidan Carr is another experienced campaigner and it wouldn’t be the first time he has been called upon to plug a vital gap.

Kevin McKernan will drop deep from the half forward line to provide extra cover behind the midfield pairing.

At midfield Peter Fitzpatrick or Peter Turley, though the former is recovering from a hand injury, could be paired with Paul Devlin who though not a recognised traditional styled midfielder has been used as a scoring threat from here by Jim McCorry with both Down and Kilcoo. In truth midfield is probably where Down’s short comings show up the most, there just does not seem to be a big, mobile centre field player in the County.

Caolan Mooney (1-5) will shuttle up and down the pitch from half forward with Mark Poland (0-6) and Conor Maginn (0-5).

Up front top scorer Donal O’Hare (5-36) will have to transfer his League form to Championship and with captain Conor Laverty (3-11) will form a two man inside forward line.

Arthur McConville (4-6) will be sprung from the bench at some time and with Jerome Johnston is probably unfortunate not to start.

It has been confirmed that Derry midfielder Patsy Bradley will not be fit for the Ulster SFC clash against Down.

Bradley has failed to overcome a long hard season with Slaughtneil, and his experience will be a huge loss for the Down clash.

Derry manager Brian McIver has a midfield headache all year as Fergal Doherty is also rated doubtful for the game, while Emmet Bradley and PJ McCloskey, who would have been expected to come in, are both rated doubtful.

Derry have been quite poor in 2015, true their defeats were at a higher level (Div 1) than Down’s victories (Div 2) but that losing mentality is hard to shake and a few maverick forwards apart, Derry do not appear to be a team that can think on its feet and if Down get in around them and frustrate them their game plan can unwrap very quickly.

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