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Keenan says Derry are out to win support

DERRY defender Niall Keenan is hoping that Derry will see a big increase in support at Owenbeg on Saturday.

They have not enjoyed massive crowds at their games this season. Playing in Division four has meant only the hard core fans are following the Oak Leafers. But with a home game at Owenbeg set for Saturday, Keenan called on fans to make the trip.

“Hopefully we get a crowd. They can give us that extra bit. You like to have the crowd behind you.

“A win would be very important this weekend. If we don’t get a win then it would be regarded as a disappointing season. A win would give us momentum.

“Hopefully we can get that win and get everyone behind us.”

Technichally this is a division two versus division three clash.

Laois earned promotion to the second tier this year, while Derry were promoted up to division three.

You’d think that it would be Laois who had favouritism for this game, but in actual fact it’s Derry who are the bookies choice to come away with the spoils.

A good chunk of pundits don’t put stock in how teams play in the league, but plenty more argue that the divisions are a good guide of where a team is at. But in this instance the bookies have ignored that form. Their gut feeling about Derry’s favouritism is perhaps based on the Derry team’s performance so far. They have the second best attack in Ireland at the moment, based on league and championship scoring, but also they were able to run Tyrone close for a good part of their Ulster Championship clash.

The Derry defender Keenan has started both championship matches this season, the Tyrone result was frustrating, but had its positives.

“We learned that we can compete at that level. They are one of the top three sides. But the game gave us a lot of positives.

“I thought that we got a lot of our tactics right. I thought that we played a good game but Tyrone’s experience got them over the line.”

Derry were able to bounce back from that result. A draw against another Division four team, Wexford, whom Damian McErlain’s side had already beaten this season was a good one.

They charged into the game and thanks to four first half goals, led by 4-5 to 0-5 at the interval and it was pretty much game over.

The goals came from Shane McGuigan, Ryan Bell, Benny Heron and Enda Lynn.

“We were very good against Wexford,” Keenan said.

“We had a good defensive display and we built our attacks on that. We were happy with that.”

Keenan said that Derry have spent the intervening period working on the same things that they have done over the past year. There is no massive changes.

They are just looking at how they are playing, and trying to improve.

“We have been looking at what has been going well, and what hasn’t, and working on our game play. We are seeing what we can do to learn and get better.

“We are a good team, but there are always things that we can learn. When you are competing against teams you have to learn to adapt.

“Against Wexford they did break us down at times so we will look at that.”

At the start of the championship, the Derry players had pointed out that the introduction of Ciaran Meenagh had helped to implement a clear defensive system to the team, something that they may not have had in the past. But Keenan wanted to play that down, as he didn’t want to imply that the team was balanced.

“You have to have all 15 players working off the same hymn sheet. If one man isn’t doing his job the there is an issue. Everyone knows what they have to do.

“It is not a case of the defence being strong, the attack is strong too.

“Every team is looking to stop the team in possession from scoring, but there is as lot of work being done in attack as well. We have to be able to score to put teams away.”

And the other important area is the centre of the field.

“You really can’t afford to be losing kick outs. It used to be that you would lump it up the field. You can’t really afford to do that.”

r.scott@gaeliclife.com

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