City of Derry back to USL action

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City of Derry travel to Magherafelt on Saturday to play Rainey Old Boys in the Ulster Senior League (KO 2.30pm).

While the Second XV’s from both clubs play one another at the same time also in the League at Judges Road.

This local derby is always a keenly contested affair where the Pride of Parish comes to the fore and the commitment from both teams sees the tanks emptied with everything left on the pitch.

Tomorrow will give the Judges Road men the perfect opportunity to avenge their All Ireland League Division 2A reversal against Rainey as they narrowly lost 20-19 at the end of September.

Mark Nicholl’s side had the upper hand in their two fixtures last season in the Ulster League and AIL with comprehensive victories.

Derry defeated Rainey away in early September and two weeks later in the AIL they were victorious.

That was the perfect start to a most successful 2013-2014 season that almost culminated in Promotion to AIL Division 1B on the last day of the campaign.

The opposite has happened this season with that narrowest of defeats on the first day of the AIL away to Rainey, the Judges Road men have struggled since then to hit the heights of last season.

The current season looks like it is finally changing for City of Derry with their Cup semi-final defeat away to Ballynahinch.

Victory was cruelly snatched from them when a try was scored with the last play of the game but that might have been the turning point.

The performance last Saturday at Ballymacarn Park was outstanding from the Derry men where they outplayed an AIL Division 1A side for the entire game.

That level of play restored a confidence that was taken into last Saturday’s superb bonus point victory over Dungannon.

The season maybe on the up for the Judges Road men and a local derby on Saturday is the perfect challenge to keep the intensity of performance at a level that becomes the norm required every week.

Derry can finish off the year in style with victory in Magherafelt on Saturday and then on Saturday week Blackrock come to Judges Road for a vital fixture for both clubs.

Blackrock are vying for a top two position in the league and immediate promotion after their relegation last season and they will expect victory.

City of Derry make a few changes for Saturday’s trip to Mid Ulster, Cathal Cregan and Ross Harkin return to the front row while the ever present Sam Duffy and David Ferguson are rested. David Houston replaces Adam Bratton in the second row with Stephen Corr joining him from the back row. Scott Lindsay comes into the back row to replace Corr.

The backline sees Stuart Simpson at scrum half and Andrew Semple at out half with Richard McCarter rested.

Adam Bratton moves to centre and Jack Beattie come in on the wing as they both replace the injured Chris Barber and Stuart Simpson and Peter Henderson returns to full back.

The debut of Scott Lindsay at open side wing forward will be eagerly anticipated by everyone at Judges Road. Scott whose family hail from Scotland was born in New Zealand and played with Hastings Rugby and Sports Club and met David Funston and Andrew Semple when they were there playing there while on rugby experience a few years ago. Scott has been working as a Physio in Melbourne and playing Aussie Rules socially for the last three years with no rugby.

Scott and his fiancé Kelly are on holiday in Europe for six months and will be in Derry until mid February. Scott played a few games recently for our seconds and can play for our 1st XV in the Ulster Senior League but not in the AIL.

City of Derry: Peter Henderson, William McCleery, David Funston, Adam Bratton, Jack Beattie, Andrew Semple, Stuart Simpson, Ross Harkin, Cathal Cregan, Chris Shields, Stephen Corr, David Houston, Richard Baird, Scott Lindsay, Stephen Ferguson, Replacements: Sam Duffy, David Ferguson, Stephen Duffy, Johnny Kennedy, David Graham.