City of Derry will be without David Graham and Jack Beattie as they seek a first win of the season in Saturday’s All Ireland League Division 2B Ulster derby against Armagh at the Palace Grounds (k.o. 2.30pm).
Graham was forced off during last week’s defeat to Skerries after suffering a knock to the head and won’t be involved this week while Beattie misses out due to work commitments.
It means another reshuffle for Richard McCarter and his fellow coaches against an Armagh team who started with an impressive 14-30 victory away at Bective last weekend and who are being tipped to be among the front runners this season.
However, with a rivalry that goes back to the 2010 season when Derry dramatically won the All Ireland Junior Cup from under the noses of the Orchard County club, McCarter is expecting his player to relish the test.
“Although Armagh have strengthened this season and are going to be a good side, there will be no problem getting the players up for this game because there is that healthy rivalry between the two clubs going back to our junior rugby days,” explained McCarter
“We are looking forward to it. It is a good chance to try and redeem ourselves after the disappointment of last weekend’s result against Skerries.”
That 15-32 defeat highlighted the lack of pre-season preparation time afforded to the new Derry coaching team which McCarter conceded was a frustration but he belives there were also signs that the new ideas may be taking hold.
“We have lost the game in the details. We certainly felt we didn’t deserve to lose as heavily as we did last week. It was a closer game than that,” he added.
“From our point of view, we conceded some really, really soft tries and we had to work really hard for our own scores. That’s been a trend with Derry over the past couple of seasons.
“The players were disappointed to lose and with how who we conceded some of the tries but at the same time, the performance gave them plenty of belief. Skerries have been billed as one of the top teams in the division this season and on another day we might well have won that game.”
Derry had particular problems on the restart, twice losing tries within 60 seconds of a try being scored.
“The restart was really frustrating actually. We had started well and kicked a good penalty and then we conceded literally 30 seconds later after the restart. We showed character to go back up the pitch and work our try very well but then again, within 30 seconds we are behind again.
We then failed to gather our own kick-off again and we have to look at that as coaches. We had the wrong players in the wrong positions. We needed our ball players in around those action areas. People say you are at your most vulnerable when you score and it comes down to concentration.”
Derry’s defence will have to improve for this weekend’s clash but McCarter said the players have been working hard in training.
“Defensively, we’ve been hot and cold. There were times against Skerries when we showed really good line speed and were really aggressive but then there were other times when it was quite worrying just how easily they managed to break us down.
“We have to learn from our mistakes and I would like to think they won’t happen again but it shows that it is the small details that make the difference in matches at this level.
“That’s a lesson we can take into this weekend’s game. Armagh will be tough, we know that but it is a derby. The players are looking forward to the game.”