IT will be “backs to the wall” for City of Derry this weekend as they attempt to take on reigning cup holders in the semi-finals of the First Trust Senior Cup on Saturday with a worrying injury list.
Ballymena, who play in the league above City of Derry RFC, are favourites going into the clash having knocked City of Derry out at the same semi-final stage last year.
The Judges Road men have not won the competition since 2000, and with a concerning injury list containing at least half a dozen men who would likely have started the match, manager Mark Nicholl admits that it may be “backs to the wall stuff” on Saturday.
He said that the match will present an opportunity for people from the wider core of players to go out and prove themselves against a side of Ballymena’s calibre.
“That’s it”, he said, “We have a core of about 25 or 30 players but a few of the guys from the seconds have also picked up injuries. But we are going to be giving somebody a chance.”
Club captain David Funston, Richard Baird, Peter Anderson, Jack Caithness and Adam Parke all number amongst those struggling with injury, with Chris Cooper also thought unlikely to be fit to make the match.
Mark Nicholl said: “Semi-finals of cups are always big matches, but we have big injury problems at the minute. They are the current cup holders and they are a league above us, playing in the Ulster Bank League 1B, and although they haven’t been playing well, we are under no illusions. It will be backs to the wall stuff.”
He added: “We know we will have to be play at our best.”
In their last competitive fixture, City of Derry lost out in league action against Dublin side Terenure College. In a disappointing outing for the Judges Road side, Terenure defeated City of Derry by 38 points to ten, and now sit five points above the local side at second place in the All Ireland Division 2A table.
Mark Nicholl said: “Terenure were a decent side but we were very poor. The tackling wasn’t up to the standard, and even though we were missing a few players, the players who were there didn’t do what they were capable of.”
City of Derry took an early lead in that game thanks to points from Richard McCarter, although a series of first half tries meant Terenure had built up an unassailable lead by half time.
Mark Nicholl’s charges lost the game by 28 points, although the injured players’ understudies will be hoping to take their chance against Ballymena and secure a place in the First Trust Senior Cup final for City of Derry..