05 Oct 2022

City of Derry in trouble after losing first leg of relegation play-off

Richard McCarter's side must overcome 16-point deficit

City of Derry RFC

City of Derry are in trouble after losing at Clonmel on Saturday.

Clonmel 33

City of Derry 17


City of Derry coach Richard McCarter is remaining positive despite his side having an uphill task to remain in the All-Ireland league after a 16-point defeat in the first leg of Saturday’s relegation play-off at Clonmel.

Two late tries for Clonmel took this game away from Derry and means they have a mountain to climb to win the tie outright and stay in senior rugby.

Given the form of both teams going into the game, this result was somewhat of a shock, with Derry playing their best rugby of the season in the final two points and just missing out on finishing outside the bottom two by the narrowest of margins.

“The reality is that we knew yesterday wasn’t going to decide anything anyway,” McCarter reflected afterwards. “I said last week that even if it didn’t go our way, at least we would have a second bite of the cherry and a second opportunity this weekend. It makes it pretty clear what we have to do now, we have to go out and have a go and leave nothing on the pitch next Saturday.”

The first 15 minutes of the game were disastrous for Derry as they fell 12-0 behind before losing talisman Simon Logue to a hamstring injury which also rules him out of the second leg at Judges Road. But McCarter’s side hit back strongly with tries from Davy Graham and Paddy Blennerhasset and an Alex McDonnell penalty gave them a 17-12 half time lead.

But they could not build on that momentum, and after a yellow card to Graham in the early stages of the second half, Clonmel took advantage and didn’t look back. It was hard to watch for McCarter.

“We were optimistic,” he admitted. “We did start poorly; we felt in the warm up that we weren’t quite at the races and that was reflected in our start. But we reacted really, really well, especially after losing an influential player like Loguie so early. We came back into it and finished the first half excellently. We started the second half well and had a couple of opportunities but then small, silly errors crept into our game and we let them back into it. We let them dictate what happened and the last 10 or 15 minutes was damage limitation to be honest.”

Without Logue, Derry will be down one of their best players this coming Saturday, but despite the odds now stacked firmly against his team, McCarter is remaining optimistic.

“We go into this 16-0 to start with so it’s a big, uphill task for us, but we’ve got to be positive and we’ve got to believe that we can do it,” he insisted.

“This is a group of players that can score tries and get ourselves out of this. We’ve come back against adversary manys a time this year when people had written us off. This is another big task for us, but it’s important that we play the game next Saturday and get a big start, get our noses in front, and if we can get an early seven-pointer that changes the complexion of the game completely.”


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