All Ireland Qualifying Series, Round 2A: Mayo v Derry: Elverys MacHale Park (July 1st, 5pm)
Derry selector Hugh McGrath claims there will be no inferiority complex when the Oak Leafers travel to Castlebar to take on Mayo in Round 2A of the All Ireland Qualifying Series.
Damian Barton’s team eased past Waterford on Saturday but their reward for that 0-13 to 1-17 victory was the most difficult draw possible though McGrath belives the players will relish the challenge to test themselves against Stephen Rochford’s side.
““You have to play the best teams at some stage,” explained McGrath, “Would there be any point in getting a so-called ‘weaker’ team now? You may as well play what is out there and test yourself to see how far on you are, or indeed, how far off you are.
“There’s no point in looking to shirk these challenges. That’s the draw we have and we now need to prepare ourselves over the next two weeks to make sure we are as well prepared as possible.
“Players want to be playing the big teams, they want to test themselves against the best players and our players are no different.
“Take the likes of Chrissy McKaigue for example, or Enda Lynn, do you think they will be worried about facing Mayo? Not at all, they will be relishing the challenge. We all know how good Mayo are but it’s an opportunity for our players to show how good they are.”
Mayo lost their second Connacht semi-final in a row against Galway two weeks ago but will still go into the game as favourites.
The game, which will be played over the weekend of July 1st/2nd, will be only the second Championship meeting between the counties with the last coming in 2007 when Derry won by a margin of 2-13 to 1-6 thanks to goals from Collie Devlin and Enda Muldoon.
“Mayo are in the qualifiers for a reason,”added the Steelstown Brian Ogs club man, “Like us, they lost in their provincial Championship but we have been slightly lucky in that we have had a game to try and get that out of our systems so hopefully that gives us some sort of advantage.
“Mayo will be out with a point to prove. They find themselves in a position we have been in - and are still in - ourselves. They will be bitterly disappointed to have lost against Galway, especially as it’s two years on the trot. Will there be a reaction? It is up to us to go there and try to make sure there’s not.
“Of course we would rather the match was at home but our guys are happy enough to go where they need to go and try to right some wrongs from the Tyrone match.
“We haven’t performed that well in Celtic Park over recent times so it will not be a thing for us to go away and take on one of the best teams in the country.
“There is no expectation on us; there is no pressure on us and maybe that will allow the boys to go out and play with some freedom.”
McGrath said there were a number of positives Derry could take from the weekend win over Waterford in Dungarvan
“We started off really well and tagged on a couple of scores but took our foot off the gas a bit and maybe thought it was going to be easier than it was. That gave Waterford a way back in towards the end of the first half and is something to work on.
“At the start of the second half we went at it again and started to tag on scores and played very well.
“We were happy enough with the display. Danny Tallon got himself into the game and played well; Niall Keenan was excellent in defence again; Danny Heavron did well up front, there were lots of positives.
“The task now is to build on that performance and try to take it up another level.”
With Derry safely through, McGrath was an interested spectator for Sunday’s Ulster semi-final clash between Donegal and the Tyrone side which knocked Derry out.
“There was a lot of talk about the number of under 21s Donegal were fielding but we had quite a few under 21s and we are also in something of a transitional period but Donegal don’t seem to have had the criticism we got.
“We had a go at Tyrone that day and but for some wayward shooting early in the second half we could have been a lot closer and I don’t think that was the case for Donegal.
“That result puts our game into some sort of perspective when you see how far ahead of Donegal Tyrone were.
“However, our focus now is Mayo. We know it will be a difficult game but it’s up to us to prepare and perform on the day.”