By Michael McMullan
THE last time Derry and Kildare crossed paths in the league; it took a controversial late Emmett McGuckin goal to earn Damian Barton’s side a 1-18 to 1-17 win.
From that Division Two clash six years ago in Celtic Park, only attackers Benny Heron and Niall Loughlin are on board with the Oakleafers as they aim to make it four wins in as many league outings this season on Sunday (2pm) in Newbridge.
The sides did meet 12 months later when Kildare knocked the Oakleafers out of the All-Ireland Qualifiers on an afternoon Mark Lynch played his last game of county football.
That was in the midst of Derry’s yo-yoing of the divisions, but there is a more stable foundation in the county now.
Nine players have featured on all seven of Rory Gallagher’s starting rosters this season with Lachlan Murray and Padraig Cassidy’s substitute appearances taking the total to 11 players to have tasted action in every game.
Gareth McKinless has missed the last two outings with injury with Cassidy coming back into the reckoning after missing much of their 2022 Ulster winning campaign.
Saturday’s win over Meath was more comprehensive than the 2-15 to 1-7 scoreline suggests. From the moment Conor Glass played in Ethan Doherty for his third senior goal after 47 seconds, Derry were the bosses.
A mixture of kicking and link up play saw them totally suffocate Meath until Niall Toner finished off a brilliant team move to hit Derry’s second goal and put the game to bed. Even when the Royals hit their goal, Derry upped the ante to hit three quick-fire points to move up a notch.
The one thing that will frustrate them will be only having two clean sheets in seven outings and it’ll be part of the blueprint this weekend.
Jack Robinson, with 0-16 to his name, is the new ace in the Kildare pack and his performance against Dublin certainly laid down a marker.
Darragh Kirwan, Paddy Woodgate and Jimmy Hyland are other sharpshooters needing their space and supply cut off this weekend.
Derry’s midfield axis of Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Padraig and Paul Cassidy – all with serious engines – will be pivotal to whether Derry can play the game on their terms.
Every week, the stakes rise. Derry face into two games in six days against the teams who dropped from Division One – the place Gallagher’s side are craving. A win in Newbridge would be another marker the promotion race