THIS weekend promises to be a big occasion for City of Derry Rugby clubs senior squad.
The clubs First XV travel to Cork to play Highfield in All Ireland League Division 2A while the club’s Second XV take on Dungannon at Judges Road in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup (KO 2.30pm).
The last time City of Derry took on Highfield in the AIL was in the season 2010-2011 also down in Cork but then it was in AIL Division 3.
The Judges Road men ran out convincing 40-21 winners on the day and in the process went on to win the league title. Highfield played their rugby in AIL Division 2B last season and finished third behind Cashel and Banbridge but won a playoff against Thomond to also get promoted to AIL 2A.
Derry have played ten games in AIL 2A this season winning six and loosing four, all the games won have resulted in bonus point victories having scored four tries or more in the process. They are on 30 points in the table just a point behind Banbridge in fourth place. Highfield have played eleven games winning four and loosing seven but have amassed seven bonus points in the process, four of which were when they lost but finishing within seven points of the opposition. The have accumulated 23pts in the table but have only two more home games remaining.
The last time City of Derry played Highfield they came up against the biggest set of forwards in the All Ireland League with the majority standing over six feet five inches and built to match. Derry found it difficult initially to come to grips with their physicality but once they moved the ball quickly to the wide channels from set piece and breakdown scores flowed freely.
Highfield will be targeting this fixture as a must win game because with only one other home game remaining they will easily be dragged into the relegation zone. Derry will travel with confidence but only total commitment, aggression and concentration will suffice. It will not be a game for the faint hearted as Highfield’s home field is fortress to be protected at all costs; if you want to win there you have to go to war.
City of Derry squad: David Witherow, Steven Jefferson, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, Paul McFeely, Gareth Beattie, David Houston, Brian Prue, Stephen Corr, Tom Patton, Richard Baird, Jack Caithness, Richard McCarter, Richard Peoples, Peter Henderson, Ryan Campbell, David Funston, Chris Barber, William McCleery, Simon Logue, Robbie Logue.
Meanwhile the Seconds will also be hoping to continue their recent run of form when Dungannon come calling to Judges Road in the quarter-final of the Towns Cup.
Derry started their campaign with a 33-28 home win against Randalstown at the beginning of January. They then had a titanic struggle at home three weeks ago in the last round when they came from behind to beat Rainey 27-26.
It took a massive team effort to eventually win the day as the game was about to enter injury time. Derry were 26-22 behind when they were awarded a penalty, out half Richard Peoples kicked to the corner for a line out 10 metres out. Johnny Lyons won the ball and set up a maul for a forward drive the backs joined in they drove Rainey over their line with winger Adam Blair touching down for his second try of the game to give the home side the lead and a deserved victory.
City of Derry coaches James Doherty and Sean O’Kane will be hoping injuries and unavailability to the senior squad will not hinder their chances of selecting a strong team.
They believe that with players like Bob McKillop, Rodney Balfour, Mark Walker and Jonny Lyons in the pack and Richard Peoples, Adam Blair and Phil Duffy in the backs the club can progress to the last four for the first time in five seasons.