COCKHILL CELTIC PLAYER-MANAGER Gavin Cullen says that squad freshness has ensured that hunger hasn’t been an issue as they chase a fifth Ulster Senior League title in a row.
Cockhill host another of the heavyweights this Sunday as they welcome Derry City Reserves to the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds (2pm) for a clash of two of the League’s contenders.
Cockhill have been League and Cup double winners in each of the last four seasons, while Derry, back in 2012, were the last League victors before Cockhill’s reign of glory began.
“At times, you’d be sitting thinking the hunger is on the wane, but then the players remind you just how much they want it,” Cullen says.
“It has been some commitment by these players to do what they have done and to keep going.
“A couple of years before I took over, I thought it was dropping a bit, but the whole thing has been energised again. The attitude and commitment since I’ve taken over has been first class.”
Cullen himself has been absent in recent weeks because of a hamstring injury, but could be in contention for a place on Sunday.[adrotate group=”87″]
Gerry Gill, Derek Doherty and Ryan Varma are hampered by injury, too, but are expected to be passed fit, although Garbhan Friel seems likely to be unavailable.
Cullen has seen the likes of Peter Doherty, Paul McDermott and Ronan Doherty come into his ranks and take it by the scruff, while the returns of Oisin McColgan, Mark Moran and Ryan Varma have been key.
“It all really adds to the depth of the squad,” says Cullen.[adrotate group=”83″]
“That is the key for success and the key for hunger. Competition for places is massive for us. Gerry Gill was away for a while, but came back last Christmas and when you see the desire he has to do well it just lifts the whole place.
“We have 25 players on the first-team panel. I’d actually love more games to be honest so we could rotate and change it more.”
Derry City Reserves have already flexed their muscle this season having hit Bonagee for seven recently and Cullen is expecting the Candystripes to offer a severe test of Cockhill’s credentials.
He says: “You won’t know what sort of a side they’ll have out until we land on Sunday. With any other team you could make a fair stab at seven or eight players at least.[adrotate group=”53″]
“With Derry, you just can’t do that. We know the way they’ll play; they’ll be sharp and fast. It’s just the personnel we won’t know.
“Derry have been very strong at this level. We’re well aware of their quality. They’ll be a quality side for us to play. They’re the best footballing side in the League.”
“They’ve been brilliant for the League, in fairness. They always talk the League up and they’re really positive about it. The League has worked really well for them.”
Cockhill come into the game on the back of an emphatic 7-0 win over Swilly Rovers in the Intermediate Cup on Sunday, when all the goals – including a Ronan ‘Olly’ Doherty hat-trick – came in the second half.
Cullen says: “It was just important to win it. It would have been very disappointing not to go through. Swilly were well set up and defended well in the first half, but we got through in the second. In any Cup competition, getting the result is all that counts.”
Four Lanterns Ulster Senior League
Sunday, October 30, kick-off 2pm
Cockhill Celtic v Derry City Reserves Vincent McLoughlin; Assistants – Packie Coll and tbc
Fanad United v Finn Harps Reserves Marty Quinn
Letterkenny Rovers v Bonagee United Marty McGarrigleTags: