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Derry relish visit of Dubs

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DUBLIN won't be bringing the picnic baskets to Celtic Park next Sunday. There will be a chill in the Derry air.

Declan McGrath is not predicting a gentle serving of afternoon tea. He played for the Dubs against Derry.

"It was 1983. We lost by a couple of points in Bellaghy," he recalls.

"It is always tough going to Derry. No matter how well or badly Derry are doing, they always put it up to the Dubs, especially at home."

And Brian McIver has Derry humming this season. Sunday's one-point loss in Cork was their first defeat of the Allianz NFL Division 1 campaign.

TUMBLED

They drew with Tyrone and had wins against Kerry and Westmeath. Likewise, the Blues have only tumbled once. That was to Cork in Croke Park last week.

"But they got back on track against Kildare on Saturday night. That was a good display. And Dublin are going well this season," McGrath adds.

"As an attacking force, they are fantastic. They just have to tighten up in defence.

"When Rory O'Carroll comes back, he'll strengthen up that area. And I feel that, if young Michael Concarr of St Vincent's can transfer his club form to county, you'd never know. Easier said than done of course, but he's a good prospect."

Declan values bright form in the league. "It is important to do well in the league. Three out of the last five league winners have won the All-Ireland," he says.

"You had Kerry in 2009, Cork in 2010 and Dublin last year. And, when Dublin won the All-Ireland in 2011, I think the fact that they got to the league final that year was also a big help.

"The league also gives Jim (Gavin) the chance to see players in a competitive environment. They have an opportunity to make their mark and set out their stall for Championship.

"And, in fairness to Jim, it's not just a case of giving people a run and then discarding them if they don't play well. Lads are being given a fair opportunity.

"The league is the ideal arena for fellas to prove that they are worth their place. Some will make the most of it and others not so much."

Ciarán Kilkenny has been making an impact for some considerable time. News of his ruptured cruciate burst the weekend bubble.

COMEBACK

"The injury to Ciarán is very unfortunate. Cormac Costello got a bad shoulder injury last season, but he made a terrific comeback. He is flying now, and he is knocking on the door for a Championship place.

"I'm sure Cormac and Ciarán will be talking about the injury and, no doubt, Ciarán will also come back stronger than ever."

Young Costello plays football with Declan's beloved Whitehall Colmcille. Declan managed the first team for many years. He's now managing the junior side with Noel Ellis.

EXPERIENCE

"Paddy (Canning) is doing a fine job managing the senior footballers. He has Anto Holly and Ollie McInerney with him, so there is plenty of experience there.

"They had a good win against St Mark's last Sunday. There's a lot of young fellas in the squad. There's enthusiasm there. We won the Junior B Championship, so we are trying to build on that."

And he states that it's vital that the Dubs keep on putting cement on the bricks.

"I think Dublin can beat Derry on Sunday. It will be difficult going there, but this Dublin side are well capable of getting the win," he adds.

"It's crucial to keep the momentum going. They are well on course for the semi-final. There is no reason why they can't reach the final.

"And also no reason why they can't win the league outright. You can't beat being in a winning frame of mind. It's a good stepping stone to the Championship."


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