National Football League Division three
Derry v Longford
Sunday, Celtic Park, 2pm
Derry fans may be clinging on to their hopes of promotion to Division one, but players like Shea Downey are not so concerned.
The Lavey man is in his second season playing with the county, and he explains that while some might pressure them to gain promotion, he says that if Derry are to succeed in the long term then they need time to develop.
“There has been a lot of turnover of players. Hopefully we can cement this panel. We have a strong panel.
“The panel is fairly young and I have played with a good few of them from minor to u-21 level.
“Hopefully we can keep improving. We have a young panel. It will take time to blend together.”
Downey got his chance to play for his county last year, but things didn’t go to plan.
“I am sort of new, I was in the panel but I didn’t play a lot. I was plagued by injuries.”
This year, things have been different. Not only has Downey been starting, he’s also been getting forward and getting scores for the team.
He paid tribute to the influence of new manager Rory Gallagher.
“Rory has been great. He has taken it to another level.”
That level has involved a greater emphasis on defence. The Oak Leafers are a team who have tried to keep the scores down, and then hit their opponents on the counter.
“The way the game is now everyone plays everywhere, defenders are asked to attack, and attackers have to defend.
“Rory says that we have a to be able to defend first and foremost. I want to improve.”
But results have not gone to plan.
An opening round draw to Leitrim was followed by defeat to Down.
Wins against Tipperary and Louth followed, but the crucial result appears to be the defeat to Cork which has left Derry needing other results to go their way if they are to get promoted.
Downey explained what he thinks the issue might be.
“We have been missing chances. At the moment we have been creating chances but we have bot been able to take them.
“We need to click it together.
“We have done well defensively. But it is a relatively new panel, and it will take time to blend.
“In training we are working hard. Better players work and work. In training you are marking better players and that helps. We play a lot of matches in training. Working on the basic skills. We play a lot of football.”
Downey is from a famous family in Derry which many will know. His father is Seamus, the All-Ireland winner. And Shea is not the only one who has followed in his father’s footsteps. His younger brother Enda won an Ulster Minor Club title earlier this year, and next Tuesday he will play in the MacRory Cup final.
“My brother Enda is playing in the MacRory Cup. He will not be fazed. He has played in a lot of big games. He is better than me. All the young boys in Lavey are good.
“I think it is because of the 3G pitch They are playing in there all the time.”
He is hoping that the Lavey contingent will soon fill out the County senior team, and further strengthen the fledgling squad.
But at the moment promotion looks like it is unlikely.
“At the minute Cork are looking in the best position to go up. We are out to win the last two games. We are looking at what we can control. Looking back, losing to Down was frustrating because we should have got something out of that game.
“We have just been taking it game by game. We wanted to perform in every game. We just try to get a performance each week.
“Getting promotion would be a bonus, We are still trying to go out and win the last two games. I think there is room for improvement. Hopefully we will be able to take our chances when we create them.”
But there’s no rush.