McGuckin hoping extra quality makes the difference


THE Derry Football Championships get underway this weekend, and O’Donovan Rossa will be hoping that they can be amongst the contenders at senior grade.

The Magherafelt men won the crown in 2019 and were beaten finalists in 2020, but with Glen and Slaughtneil the major players over the last few years, that is the level they will be hoping to get back to.

It’s Damian Barton and Brian McGuckin’s second year at the helm, and having been knocked out by Glen last year, they’re hoping that the addition of Richard Thornton – who was part of the All-Ireland winning Kilcoo team – can make a difference this campaign.

“We have got Richard Thornton in with us this year as well, and he has been a fabulous addition,” said McGuckin.

“He brings a lot of experience and quality to our management team.

“From a playing perspective, we have introduced plenty of young players, who have had good experience at inter-county level at underage.

“Those players bring quality, and they increase the competition for places, which is vitally important.”

Magherafelt used the league to blood in those young players, and although in McGuckin’s words, the league a ‘mixed bag’, he believes that giving opportunities to those players will pay dividends down the line.

“The league campaign was a bit of a mixed bag for us to be honest,” he said.

“Obviously there was a bit more of a competitive element to it this year with the relegation, but it was an opportunity for us to blood some young players. So, in that respect, it was a real benefit because I have no doubt that those young players will have gained Senior experience which will stand to them going into this championship.”

With the championship on the horizon, the return of county men Odhran Lynch, Conor McCluskey and Eoin McEvoy will be a welcome addition, and McGuckin explained what they bring to the table.

“It goes without saying that they are good players to have back,” he said.

“What they bring is leadership, and what they do is increase the quality of the squad and of the sessions.

“Even young Eoin McEvoy – he’s only 19 years of age, but he exudes that leadership as well. He’s playing with players older than him, but he has high standards and expects high standards of everyone around him.

“But to be fair, there are very high expectations amongst all of the Magherafelt players, of themselves.”

The format in Derry sees 14 teams split into two groups of seven, with each team playing six group stage matches.

With so many games to play, it will be imperative to start getting points on the board as quickly as possible, and Magherafelt will be hoping that they can do that when they host The Loup this Sunday.

“I suppose with the round robin, and having so many games, it’s important to get off to a fast start,” said McGuckin.

“Obviously The Loup will be looking at this game in exactly the same way as we are. Every game is important in the championship; this year they have introduced relegation into it as well, so it doesn’t matter who you play, and when you play them, there will be something at stake.”

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