McGrath sees enough positive signs ahead of Monaghan clash

By Michael McMullan

DERRY u-20 manager Hugh McGrath feels there were enough positives to take from his side’s defeat to Tyrone into Wednesday’s clash with Monaghan in Castleblayney.

The Oakleafers need at least a victory from their two remaining games – Monaghan and Antrim – to qualify for the knock-out stages.

In a new two-group round robin format in Ulster, the top team in each section will advance to the semi-finals with second and third playing in the quarter-finals.

It would take Monaghan to beat Tyrone in their last game to give Derry a chance of top spot, but, for now, their sole focus is bouncing back.

Derry and Tyrone were level on five occasions before the Red Hands pushed three points clears.

A Johnny McGuckian goal looked to have earned Derry’s share of the spoils before Tyrone worked their kick-out on the way to Gavin Potter’s winning point.

“There was always that chance, we tried to press the kick and tried a few things out, we got caught at the end,” McGrath said of the decisive play after McGuckian’s goal.

“It’s simple, that’s how it happens in football sometimes but there are enough positives to take out of the game to take into Monaghan next week.

“They’ve (Monaghan’s win over Down) won their game tonight so that’ll be a do or die battle next week and we hope that we’ve learned some things from tonight and we carry that into that game.”

Derry got a full game into Danny McDermott’s legs in his comeback from a broken shoulder sustained in action for Glen against Naomh Conaill.

There was a return for Niall O’Donnell after a tight hamstring forced him off early in their win over Down.

INJUJRED…Derry captain Patrick McGurk hasn’t featured due to a shoulder injury

Team captain Patrick McGurk “wasn’t far off” playing a part against Tyrone following a shoulder injury and there is optimism about a return against Monaghan.

“You just have to go week by week and see how the strength is progressing in it,” McGrath said of McGurk’s progress.

McGurk made his senior debut against Cavan in the Dr McKenna Cup and is mad keen to get back in the Oakleaf jersey.

“He’s on the phone five times a day, every day, asking…am I ready, am I ready?” McGrath joked.

“That’s what you want. You want guys to be excited about playing for Derry and being excited to play for this group.”

While his skipper will add value, McGrath spoke highly of the players across Derry’s half-back line where McGurk would ideally line out.

James Murray kept Tyrone dangerman Eoin McElholm scoreless, McDermott made his return and Conleth McGrogan – who never played for Derry at minor level – slotted in and scored a point to add to the three he notched in Páirc Esler.

Of Derry’s starting team, six played on their All-Ireland minor winning team last year.

“You have to remember a lot of these guys are first year at this age grade so for them it’s a learning curve,” McGrath added.

“That’s their second game at this level…every game like that against the opposition that we’ve played tonight (Tyrone) will bring them on and that’s what we want to see from them.

“There are loads of positives. It’s never nice to lose a game but our focus turns slowly to Castleblayney next Wednesday.”

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