McDermott could make a return against Red Hands

By Michael McMullan

DANNY McDermott is close to making a return from the collar injury sustained last November reveals Derry u-20 manager Hugh McGrath.

Despite being just days overage for the minor grade, McDermott broke into the Glen senior side last term.

After impressing on their way to the Derry title, his injury against Naomh Conaill required an operation that ended his club and MacRory Cup involvement.

Derry were 2-14 to 1-9 winners over Down on Saturday and now face Tyrone in their next group game.

It came too soon for McDermott who McGrath reported as going “really well” in training.

“He’s in full training so the Tyrone game in Owenbeg might be one he comes on and gets 10-15 minutes but we’ll see how the lay of the land is then,” McGrath said after Saturday’s win in Páirc Esler.

After notching Derry’s first score and winning the free for their second, Niall O’Donnell was called ashore after 12 minutes as a precaution after reporting a “tight hamstring”.

McGrath indicated O’Donnell was replaced in time, before any further damage.

“He’s had a fairly hectic schedule these past months. It’s the same as Patrick McGurk and Danny McDermott,” he added. “A bit of time will do them no harm and we have a bit of time before the Tyrone game.”

The Derry boss confirmed Conall Higgins, a star player in last year’s All-Ireland minor winning team, wasn’t part of their plans and will focus on rehab from his shoulder operation.

Captain Patrick McGurk picked up a shoulder injury in training in recent weeks and his omission from their win over Down was “precautionary” as they fully assess his progress.

“We’re not entirely sure how bad it is,” McGrath admits. “He’s had scans and nothing is showing up.

“You hope to be in the latter stages of this competition. You want those guys right for that so we’ll not be rushing anyone back.”

The u-20 grade has a new-look group format replacing the traditional knockout competition

The top team in each section will advance to the semi-final stage with the second and third placed teams pairing off in quarter-finals.

The winner of the Derry versus Tyrone encounter will have a significant say on the shape of the group.

While McGrath felt it was important to get off to a winning start, he is not fixated on top spot. Avoiding a quarter-final may be a help in managing injuries but an extra game (quarter-final) does have a benefit.

“That can be a good thing but for momentum – especially at this age – I think sometimes it can be more advantageous having an extra game,” he said.

“That comes with its own difficulties, in that you could lose, but for cubs at this age they need as many games as they can get at this level together as a group.

“We still go out with the aim to win every game and we’ll aim to top the group but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen and we’ll fight again.”

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