ALL IRELAND QUALIFYING SERIES: Waterford v Derry (Saturday, Fraher Field, 3pm)
Derry’s Neil Forester is hoping history can repeat itself for a second time this season as the Oak Leafers bid to rescue their season through the All Ireland Qualifying Series.
That road to redemption begins with a tricky looking trip to Fraher Field in Dungarvan on Saturday to take on a Waterford team who only lost out to Cork by a single point in the Munster Championship.
Injury forced Forester to miss last month’s 11-point Ulster Championship loss to Tyrone, the same margin by which the Red Hands defeated Derry at the same venue, in the same competition, 12 months previously.
That 2016 setback was, however, followed by an encouraging run through the Qualifiers which brought Derry to within one point of a Croke Park quarter-final and the Steelstown half-back is hoping the Oak Leafers can use that as inspiration to ensure their summer isn’t over before it has got going
“I’m not going to lie, the Tyrone result hurts and we can’t paper over it two years in a row,” explained Forester who will be available this weekend after featuring for the Brian Ogs in their last two league games.
“On the plus side though we responded in the correct manner last year in the Qualifiers. We had a good win against Louth in the first game and then kicked on from there, beating both Meath and Cavan who were two good teams.
“We are hoping for something similar this season but we have to start against Waterford this weekend, a perceived weaker team but they pushed Cork all the way which tells you this is going to be a huge test.”
Last season’s run was ended in unfortunate circumstances by Tipperary in Round 4A but Forester claims Derry didn’t get the credit they deserved for that run though he believes they have the potential to go further this season.
“It was overlooked to an extent,” he adds, “Everybody just focused on that one Tyrone game and while we can’t hide that performance, especially given it has now happened two years in a row, last year we were one point away from an All Ireland quarter-final by the end of it all.
“That will be the target we have to surpass this season but the first game is always the hardest. Building that bit of momentum is crucial. It took us a while to get the better of Louth last season but once we did we took a lot of confidence from it and that’s what the Qualifiers can do.
“Games come thick and fast and they helps teams build momentum.
“We need that same confidence boost at the moment. This season has been almost identical to last year, reaching the McKenna Cup final, a relegation fight and a tough defeat to Tyrone but last year we so nearly reached Croke Park at the end of that.
“We know the players are without a doubt there; the talent is there; we just have to apply it and get over the line against Waterford first and foremost.”
Waterford are expected to employ a 13-behind the ball defensive system similar to the one that frustrated cork, a system that Derry have traditionally struggled to break down.
“We have a good idea of how we want to play. We obviously struggled against Tyrone but they are a very slick operation. We need to be breaking these type of defences in the modern game.
“We have still been able to rack up some decent scores against the likes of Kildare, who are a very good team, in the league. We need to get back to that type of football where we have that outlet in the forward line and can work opportunities to score.
“Waterford will fancy it and, yes, perhaps we don’t carry the same reputation as a county as we did 10 years ago but that’s something we need to address as players.
“We need to get back to the level that Derry people expect us to be at. It’s very frustrating because the Tyrone game is still very raw in people’s minds and it’s tough to get past but we have to.”