Derry game part of the Down learning curve

DOWN manager Conor Laverty feels his side can still qualify for the semi-finals of the McKenna Cup and playing against Derry will have benefited his side.

With Odhrán Murdock to the fore, Down were twice seven points ahead during the first half of Saturday’s clash in Celtic Park.

It was very much a game of two halves. Derry reduced the gap to three points by half-time before pulling clear for a 0-13 to 0-10 win.

It leaves Down needing to beat Cavan in Páirc Esler on Wednesday night and hope score difference is enough to take them to a semi-final as best runner up.

“You can’t beat games, that’s where the players want to be and that’s where you’ll get a bank of fitness as well,” Laverty said after Saturday’s defeat, pointing to the benefit of playing 70 minutes at “that kind of level” against Derry.

“Derry are an extremely experienced team, they’ve been on the road now a number of years and they’re preparing for Division One football.

“So to pit our wits against them, and for our players to have that experience of playing against guys at that level, it’s all good in the learning curve we’re on.”

In defeat, Laverty was happy with their performance with players making their debuts.

“We’d have been very happy the way we executed our game-plan in the first half but it was the second half where probably our own errors gave Derry that oxygen and that platform to win the game,” he added.

Laverty spoke of the down training load in recent weeks and was happy with how his side attacked the first half.

Derry played much of the final quarter with 14 men after Daniel Guinness picked up a 56th minute black card.

“It was a first competitive game,” Laverty said, “It’s always hard to blow the cobwebs off, but the way they attacked the game in the first half was good, and then the response after the black card when we defended extremely well.”

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