By Michael McMullan
ALL-STAR defender Chrissy McKaigue should be in line for action in Sunday’s NFL showdown with Dublin says Derry Assistant Manager Ciaran Meenagh.
Speaking at Monday’s launch of the Ulster Championship, Meenagh also paid to tribute to strength and conditioning coaches Peter Hughes and Sean Quinn with he county’s medical team for keeping their players available for selection.
McKaigue replaced Paul McNeill in Sunday’s draw with Cork for his 122nd senior appearance before being forced off seven minutes later after turning on an ankle.
“If you look at Chrissy’s record in both football and hurling for Sleacht Néill and football for Derry, he never misses,” Meenagh said. “I would be very surprised if Chrissy is not ready to play on Sunday.”
Benny Heron missed the Cork clash through illness, with the management also taking the opportunity to rest players and rotate the squad ahead of the championship. Of the seven changes, Heron’s clubmate Ryan Scullion made his inter-county senior debut in goals.
Teenager Eoin McEvoy, who carried a “slight” groin injury into the Clare game didn’t see action.
“Eoin particularly being a young player and he has an u-20 championship coming up now, so you have to be fair to the u-20 management and he needed a bit of time,” Meenagh said, referring to Wednesday’s opener against Fermanagh in Roslea.
“He is a man in terms of how he is physically, but he is still only 19 years of age playing elite Division Two football week in and week out, so he needed a chance to recharge his batteries.”
Derry’s main concern it Oisin McWilliams’ shin injury that looks set to keep him out of action this weekend with the defence of their Ulster title coming down the line against Fermanagh on Saturday, April 15.
After seeing game time in Derry’s first nine games, the Swatragh man missed the last two outings. His last action was a vital score in their win over Dublin.
“It is about seeing the bigger picture, it’s not about the league final,” Meenagh said. “It is important about giving him (McWilliams) an opportunity to get up to speed and be ready for the first round of the championship, Oisin is an important player for us.
“He has made an excellent contribution this year in coming off the bench as an impact sub and had a very good McKenna Cup final that night he started. Oisin is a player we are working hard to develop.”
Before Sunday’s game in Cork and their selection reshuffle, nine Derry players started every game in 2023 which has been a hallmark of Rory Gallagher’s policy on a consistent team selection.
Meenagh also puts it down to the diligence and dedication of players keeping themselves in optimum shape.
“Our injury situation has been very, very good and has been for some time and that is testament to Pete (Hughes), Sean (Quinn) and the medical staff.
“The lads looks after themselves well, but that is a work in progress and done over a period of time. The players are fit to train and play all the time, so we should be there or thereabouts,” Meenagh concluded about the squad availability for Sunday.