Derry eye final spot

15By Michael McMullan

GETTING to the National League final is on Derry’s radar ahead of Sunday’s showdown with reigning champions Mayo in Castlebar.

With much debate surrounding the varying levels of value put on a league title, Derry selector Paul McFlynn feels his side’s focus has to be on a final berth.

“There is no point in saying it’s not,” he said, pointing to the county’s first season in the top flight since 2015 and the importance of avoiding the yo-yo effect of dropping back down.

“You are trying to learn very quickly and get other boys in the panel game time at that level.”

A win on Sunday would put the Oakleafers in the driving seat for a place in the final and the chance for another outing against a top team in Croke Park.

Aside from Mayo’s trip to New York the week after a potential league final, the other teams in the mix have a break until their championship opener.

Derry will know more this week about the availability of their walking wounded. Conor Doherty’s knee injury sustained against Galway wasn’t as bad as first feared.

Gareth McKinless and Odhrán Lynch, both with hamstring injuries, have taken part in the warm-ups during previous games.

Lachlan Murray was replaced after pulling up against Dublin and Marty Bradley’s ankle injury sustained in training days earlier will rule him out of the rest of the league.

“We should be picking from a strong enough hand, whoever is fit and available will be playing,” McFlynn told Gaelic Life of their selection thoughts ahead of Castlebar.

The decision to make seven changes ahead of the Dublin defeat was based on having eight points. After getting four McKenna Cup games and getting newcomers experience in a senior jersey, staying in the top flight was the next target and it was time to rest those who needed a break.

“The timing of it was the way it was done. Had it been any other team, it would’ve been the same, it just happened to be Dublin,” McFlynn said, dismissing any suggestions of not showing a full hand against the Dubs.

“Knowing we had three weeks until the Mayo game, it was a period of three weeks for boys to get niggles ironed out and for certain boys to get more work.”

After having time to digest their first defeat of the season, McFlynn felt their performance was a mixed bag.

“You can say Dublin were comfortable winners, and they were to an extent, but there were things we got out of it, lots of learnings for us moving forward,” he said.

“Other boys got game time and were exposed to that speed and pace which Dublin play at.

“For us, we should be full tilt ahead for Mayo, it’s trying to get up to that level for Sunday which will be a big one.”

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