City of Derry open season with trip to Banbridge in Junior Cup

City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2312GS – 59
City of Derry Head Coach Richard McCarter. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2312GS – 59

Last week's 17-26 friendly defeat to a Ballymena side currently plying their trade in All Ireland League Division 2A offered plenty of reason for optimism for Head Coach Richard McCarter who was delighted to see a number of new faces throwing their hats into the ring to challenge for a First XV position

"We'll have a few absentees that we knew about against Banbridge but last week was very encouraging," explained the Derry coach, "That gives us the confidence to be able to make a few changes.

"Ballymena brought around 30-35 players so they had a big squad. I know they were missing a few butt we had eight or nine missing too. We gave opportunities to players who have been training well, have shown up well in the Seconds last year and whom we had a genuine interest in.

"Everybody played their part. Ballymena outscored us four tries to three but it was a pretty good run out for everyone and very encouraging

"We gave a really good account of ourselves," he added, "They were very good team tries. From a defensive point of view we were disappointed with the tries we conceded. They were just small lapses in concentration which will happen in those sorts of games but the fixture showed us where we are at.

"The boys were absolutely shattered by the time 80 minutes came but it was exactly what we needed. We are challenging in four competitions so we would need to be able to rotate and trust the players that we are rotating with; that was the main takeaway for me. Those players who came in showed they are more than capable and can be relied on."

With a different format for the Junior Cup this season, Derry have been pitted against Banbridge IIs, Queen's IIs and Cooke in a competition will be spread over the course of the the season.

"We have to go to Banbridge and recognise it as the season opener," added McCarter, "Last week there were a few kickable penalties and there was no chance we were going to kick. However, if the same circumstances arrives this week, we have to take our points and build an innings.

"From a coaching point of view or an analysis point of view, we are not expecting it to go from pre-season friendly to perfect within a week. We know that there is going to be a process over the next few weeks. We're glad we have this game before the league starts next week because we are missing a couple but again, that provides opportunities for other lads coming in to try and stake a claim."

And McCarter is expected a tough first test in County Down.

"I don't know anything about them but, again, a bit like last year I would assume they'll be strong.Their Firsts are in 2A so you'd think they'd have a strong senior squad. I know their Firsts play on Thursday which will probably free up a few to play with the Seconds so I'd imagine they will be quite strong but this is about us.

"If we work hard for 80 minutes then we give ourselves a good chance of winning."