Clonmel come to Judges Road on Saturday with a 16-point lead from the first leg of the relegation play-off.
City of Derry vs. Clonmel
Richard McCarter knows the odds are against his team this Saturday, but he insists he and his players will give everything to overcome a 16-point deficit against Clonmel.
The first leg of last week’s relegation play-off looked to be going well for Derry who had a 17-15 half time lead, but the second half proved disastrous, with the final score of 33-17 in Clonmel’s favour leaving McCarter’s side in big trouble.
At least the object is clear for the Judges Road side – they must win Saturday’s game by 17 points, otherwise they will lose their All-Ireland rugby status. It is a massive day in the club’s history.
“It is definitely the biggest game in the last ten years since the last time the club got relegated out of All-Ireland league rugby,” McCarter agreed.
“The last time I was just a one-off play-off, but this time we’re lucky that we do have a second stab at it and it’s not often you get that in spirt so we have got to see that as a good position for us to be in. If it was down to one game our after would already be decided so we have got to look at this week positively and try and make this second chance count.”
What lies beyond defeat this weekend is not worth thinking about, but after a difficult few years at the club, McCarter admits that relegation would have severe implications.
“We were fortunate enough the last time that we got back up in a couple of seasons. I don’t know what would happen this time around,” he explained. “My preference has always been to stay an All-Ireland club and retain our senior club status.
“I know that no everybody in the club is in agreement with that because there are probably benefits in this day and age to not being an All-Ireland club, in terms of travelling and expense and bigger crowds if you were playing more local games. I don’t really want to think too much into that at this stage, so we’ll worry about that if it comes.”
For all their shortcomings this season, this City of Derry squad have been good at responding to setbacks, especially recently, and McCarter is holding onto that fact ahead of a huge ask this Saturday.
“We’ve had some big performances at home, none more so than in the last couple of months,” he recalled. “If you think back to Bruff, Sundays Well and Tullamore, the last three home games. We need one more big home performance, Naturally, the lads were devastated after last weekend and they know to a degree that – not that they let themselves down – but that we have made life difficult for ourselves. They can put that right this weekend and that’s what the focus is on now.”
‘Make them nervous’
The loss of the influential Simon Logue to a hamstring injury is a big blow for Derry, but there are plenty of others who can make their mark this weekend, and an early score could set the team on its way to a memorable and historic day. That remains the hope.
“They are in a nice position,” McCarter conceded. “If we were coming back home with a 16-point advantage, I would be fairly confident that we could see the job through. I said this last week that they haven’t met the proper Derry game yet and I still believe that.
“In the three games we’ve played them this year, and that’s including the home game, we haven’t played particularly well. From our perspective our focus has to be on a really, strong positive start and put them under pressure, and if we can get an early score that definitely changes things. All we can do is make them jittery and nervous and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
McCarter, a popular back at the club in his playing days, can only watch on from the sidelines these days, but he will be with every pass, every tackle and every yard gained as he wills is team to an unlikely victory this Saturday.
“When you care about something so much it can be difficult,” he admitted. “When you’re winning you just want us to hang on and get the result we deserve and when you’re losing, you just want it so badly. I know I can get quite animated on the touchline but it’s always with good intentions. This weekend is going to difficult regardless.
“It is a big match and it all boils down to one final 80-minute game. The boys will be feeling the nerves and feeling the pressure but I have backed them all season, and no matter what happens on Saturday, my opinion will be that they are a great bunch of players with unbelievable talent. Unfortunately, we were a couple of points shy all season but I’m hoping that one last throw of the nice is all it will take.”
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