Harte not expected to make many changes for Down visit

By Michael McMullan

DERRY manager Mickey Harte says he won’t have many more bodies available for Saturday’s visit of Down (Celtic Park, 6pm) in the second game of the Dr McKenna Cup.

The new Oakleafers’ boss oversaw Wednesday’s 0-15 to 1-10 win over Cavan in Kingspan Breffni, his first game in charge.

Paul Cassidy kicked four points in a man of the match performance with All-Star Shane McGuigan adding to the tally when sprung from the bench.

Steelstown’s Cahir McMonagle – one of four from the club to score on the night – popped over with his first touch.

Harte gave debuts to goalkeeper Jack Cassidy, McMonagle, Diarmuid Baker, Patrick McGurk, Donncha Gilmore and Ruairi Forbes.

“That’s why I think this competition is so good, it’s a competitive arena and you are bringing new players in, they are not playing challenge matches where they don’t know who they are playing against or if the team they are playing against really wants to win the game or not” Harte said of Wednesday’s win.

“I think this is the best place to blood new players and I’m glad we have another game on Saturday to see can we add value to those players.”

Chrissy McKaigue also entered the fray for his 131st senior appearance and Brendan Rogers may be available for selection after missing Wednesday’s win in Cavan due to illness.

Goalkeeper Odhrán Lynch took part in the warm-up but wasn’t used as he recovers from a hamstring injury he aggravated in the county final defeat to Glen.

With Benny Heron retired, Harte will also have to plan without Padraig Cassidy who is set to go travelling.

With their Glen contingent still tied up with their All-Ireland bid and an injury to Conor McCluskey, Harte will get another chance to take a look at the squad.

“He won’t be back for Saturday,” Harte said of All-Star McCluskey. “It’s not long-term, it has to be managed and he had to get a bit of treatment on it.

“We wouldn’t want to spring anything on him too soon but it’s not a long term case, he will be available pretty soon.”

Harte also called in Cormac Murphy and Marty Bradley as he aims to grow the squad ahead of a season where the games will come thick and fast, especially with the group format to the All-Ireland series further down the line.

“If all the players were there then a lot of lads who got game-time tonight (Wednesday against Cavan) wouldn’t have got it and they’ll only be better for it and it’s great there is that bit of strength in depth to your squad,” said Harte, who commented there were not enough numbers for a full 15-a-side game the moment, given injuries and club commitments.

“You want to know you are not dependent on 15, 16, 17 or 18 players even, in the modern game you need all the matchday panel capable of going in and making a difference,” he added of his hopes to grow the panel

“Therefore you need at least 26 players on any given day capable of going in and playing at whatever level you are challenging in.”

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