By Michael McMullan
DERRY manager Ciaran Meenagh feels the new All-Ireland format is “brilliant” and the Oakleafers’ camp is focused on finding form at the right time as the season heads towards the final run in.
A five-point victory over Donegal leaves Derry in second place behind Monaghan by virtue of the Farney men having scored more.
Meenagh said Derry are targeting top spot after their tough passage through the Ulster championship and all will be decided after the final round of games. Derry take on Clare, with Monaghan set for an Ulster derby against Donegal.
Placings will be decided in the following order – head-to-head, score difference, total scored, total goals scored and a play-off.
Meenagh agrees that all groups have taken on “a new life” and feels there have been some “very opinionated” views on the format.
“I think they are great,” he said after Sunday’s win in Ballybofey. “I also think because the first three teams have something to play for, it means there are going to be very little dead rubbers in the last round. I think it is a good idea.”
Derry are happy with the format and Meenagh explains how the players love playing football with training limited to recovery and staying fresh.
“The lads are playing football every week and getting the opportunity to maximise their fitness through the games…I think it’s a brilliant system.
“We’d probably prefer to top the group based on the journey that we have made and the amount of tough games we have played.”
The small Derry squad of 29 players has been tested to the max. Goalkeeper Ryan Scullion had an operation for a hand injury sustained at training last Thursday night.
Matthew Downey is nursing a quad injury from the u-20 defeat to Down while Oisin McWilliams hasn’t featured since Derry’s win over Dublin at Celtic Park in early March.
Looking at the remainder of the All-Ireland series, Meenagh referenced the variation in results across all the groups and accepts future pairings from the draw is in the “hand of the Gods”.
“We are not really worried about that,” he concluded. “We are worried about fulfilling our potential and finding form at the right time.
“Whenever the draw is, teams will knock each other out. We just have to worry about getting our own performance right, I think if our performance is right, we have a good chance of putting it up to anyone.”