Richard McCarter is hoping to stay on as City of Derry Head Coach. Pic by Tom Heaney, nwpresspics
Richard McCarter admits that some big decisions have to be made at City of Derry in the coming weeks, but he is hopeful of staying on to lead the rebuild back to All-Ireland rugby.
The Judges Road club were relegated despite beating Clonmel on Saturday past, their 17-8 victory seeing them fall seven points short overall in the two-legged relegation play-off. It means that the club are demoted back to Ulster Qualifying One and lose their All-Ireland status. It is a blow which the club have suffered before, and bounced back from before, but there is a long road ahead, with key decisions needed at all levels of the club.
“It always feels very tough, especially in the immediate aftermath,” McCarter said after the final whistle. “I said to the lads before the game that no matter what happens, the world will keep turning. It may not feel like that now but we will just prepare for next season like we do every year.
“It’s just a different level that we are playing at. We’ll maybe reassess some of the things within the game to ensure that we don’t keep on the slide but certainly with that group of players, if we can all stick together, which is really important, I don’t see any issues there.”
McCarter has led the team for almost two years following the departure of Paul O’Kane. Even beyond that he has been a part of the club for well over a decade as a player and a coach, and he is hoping that the club gets behind him as the man to lead the team into next season. He admits it would be difficult to walk away at this point.
“I’ve been involved in rugby since I was no height,” he stated. “I’m always been used to training in midweek and then the games on a Saturday. I would be lost without it. I enjoy it. Even days like this; in a strange way there are some satisfying things about the performance today and that’s what I thrive on, but we’ll see what the club want to do.”
McCarter refused to attribute any blame to centre Paddy Blennerhassett, whose mistake in the early stages of the second half gifted Clonmel the try which changed the game. A regular for McCarter this season, Blennerhassett was clearly upset by the error.
“It's unfortunate for Paddy, but I felt that was the only way they were going to cross our line because defensively we have been pretty solid,” McCarter explained. “It’s a pity we weren’t as solid down there last week otherwise we wouldn’t be in this position.
“Unfortunately for Paddy it was a bad mistake, but we still had loads of time. It was only five or ten minutes into the second half so it can’t be attributed to him. We just never really got going. We found it very tough to get into their ’22 as easily in the second half. It took us up until the last seconds and it just wasn’t enough.”
Clonmel meanwhile did everything they could to waste time throughout the game, and there were several stoppages for injuries throughout the game. Yet there wasn’t a single second of stoppage time played by the referee at the end of the game.
“I spoke to him at the end but he just said he was happy with his timing,” McCarter said. “Once he has made his decision there’s no point in crying about it. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.”
With relegation now confirmed, it is a time for reflection for everyone at the club, from the players so rushed by the aggregate defeat to McCarter himself, who certainly deserves a break at this stage. During the days and weeks which will follow, there will be moments, decisions and games to look back on as the reality of their new circumstances hits everyone at the club.
“We scored over half our points for the season over the last five games which tells its own story,” McCarter admitted. “When you look back over the course of the season, there are games we should have won that we didn’t and games we should have had bonus points and we didn’t. It’s all ifs and buts and we can’t change anything now.
“Even in relegation I stand by what I have said all season that this team can give anyone a game. We have proven that at different stages of the season, but consistency was just our major downfall this season; through injuries and covid and unavailability and things like that. We’ve got to look forward and although it doesn’t feel like it now, there will be better days ahead.”
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