City of Derry are back at Judges Road against league leaders Ballyclare this weekend.
City of Derry vs. Ballyclare
Facing the runaway league leaders might not be the ideal game for a struggling City of Derry, but it could well prove to be the making of his team this season according to Coach Richard McCarter.
A 44-22 defeat to Cooke last Saturday not only shocked but demoralized McCarter, who could not believe that his team had fallen into their own trap again. The damaging defeat to Dromore on day one of the new Ulster League season was not, it turns out, just a one-off aberration.
“We were 7-0 down after a minute and 10 seconds and that set the tone for the rest of the first half in particular,” McCarter reflected. “We were shell-shocked at that, but what is quite worrying from my point of view is that we don’t seem to regroup and come together. We just really unravelled like we did against Dromore and we found ourselves 18-0 after 15 minutes and you just cannot afford to give teams with any sort of quality that sort of head start.”
Last week’s game was similar to that defeat to Dromore, as City of Derry did show signs of life, but ultimately, they are giving themselves too much to do in games.
“We got back from 18-0 to 18-10 without doing very much,” McCarter continued. “We scored a good try and kicked a penalty and you thought, like we did against Dromore, that we could kick on if we got the next score. But we never do and we allowed them to take advantage again and it ended up 30-10 at half time. It’s a really difficult team talk then because you’re trying to be positive but the game is effectively over at that stage.”
In contrast, Ballyclare have started the new season powerfully, and will come to Judges Road confident and expecting to win against a team that is hipping too many points. But McCarter is looking at this game as an opportunity, for his players individually and collectively to prove something.
“It sounds strange but it might not be a bad time to play them,” he said. “Confidence is low but at the same time, we’re not going to be favourites for this game, which is probably the first time this season that has happened. It might not do us any harm to be underdogs because Ballyclare are certainly going to be favourites.
“They have only conceded 11 points in three matches and scored about 160 I think. They will be favourites and rightly so. Hopefully we are hurting from the start we’ve made and we can see a reaction and if we can have an encouraging and confident performance, you never know what can happen. We need something to give us a bit of a boost, especially going into two very winnable games after that.”
If there is a consolation for Derry, the fact that the season is just a few weeks old is certainly one, meaning there is plenty of time to right the wrongs of a very unexpected start to a new league.
“I think that is one of the positives we’ve got to take, that we are only three games in,” McCarter continued. “Nothing is won or lost at this stage of the season but we certainly have to improve. Four of the next five games are at home, which doesn’t really count for anything unless you turn up and put on a display, but at least that should give us some kind of motivation to try and accumulate some points over the next few weeks.
“There’s no hiding away from it. We have had a difficult start. We have to face this head on now and show that we’re made of. There’s a few players that need to stand up and be counted over the next few weeks and we need our senior players and leaders to rally around the younger players. The first few weeks have been an eye-opener so it will be interesting to see how we react to these setbacks and it could make or break us. I still back the players, there’s lots of quality there, but we just have to start showing it now.”
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