By Shaun Casey
IT’S all on the line in Ballycran this weekend as Derry and Down battle it out for their first two points of the season.
The two Ulster sides sit at the bottom of Division 2A, both on zero points after three games, so Sunday is a huge opportunity to get off the mark.
“It’s a massive game for both teams,” said Derry boss Johnny McGarvey. “The winner of this game will stay up so it’s the biggest game of the season probably for both sides.”
McGarvey, in his first season in charge, has been pleased with Derry’s progress throughout the campaign despite three defeats to Kildare, Kerry and Offaly.
“I know it’s cliched to say but we’ve just been taking it one game at a time to see how we’re getting on and see how we’re progressing.
“I think most people would have been of the opinion, certainly after the first two games, that ourselves, Down and Carlow, it’s going to be very important who won those games.
“Carlow beating Down the last day leaves ourselves and Down on no points and that makes this game a shootout, it’s going to be very, very important.
“I think we’ve played reasonably well; our results probably haven’t matched our performances. I thought we were certainly a lot closer than 15 points against Kerry, the Offaly match ran away from us badly in the second half, no excuses there.
“We felt very hard done by in the Kildare match, even watching it back. We really thought we should have got something out of the Kildare match. Progress wise, we’re quite happy with where we’re going from where we started.
“Carlow had a massive win over Down which is probably unlike Down, for Carlow to win the match as comfortably as they did. The three teams we played were the last two Christy Ring winners and then Kerry as well, so it was a very difficult start.
“But it’s where we want to be, it’s where we want to play, and we now have a shootout with Down to try and stay there. I’m sure Down are looking at it the exact same way as I’m sure every team did. I’m sure every team in the division targeted us for two guaranteed points.”
The league offers a difficult conclusion for the Oak Leaf County, with another away trip to Carlow coming up in the final round, following their journey to Ballycran this weekend.
“It doesn’t bother us in the slightest where it is, it is what it is,” added McGarvey
“We’ll be very well prepared, we know exactly what’s at stake and we’ll be going to try and win the match.”
“We have Carlow away the next day, it’s all tough going. But the boys are enjoying it, we’re enjoying playing at that higher level and we’re training very well. The results just aren’t where we’d like them to be, but we were under no illusions coming into this division, the way it was going to be.”