Jason Bloomfield will make his City of Derry debut this weekend against NUIM Barnhall in Parsonstown as the Judges Road men seek to give themselves the platform for a post Christmas AIL revival.
Bloomfield, a former Dungannon and Irish under 19 scrum-half, has impressed at training over the past fortnight since being coaxed back into the game by the returning Terry McMaster after a three year absence.
His inclusion will see Neil Burns shift to No. 10 though both Stuart Simpson and David Graham remain among an extensive injury list.
“Jason hasn’t played in two or three years but since Terry brought him back he has looked really sharp in training,” explained Richard McCarter who misses the game through work commitments.
“Barnhall have won something like 50% of their games so they are obviously a tough team. We played them down there last season and were 30 points up at half-time but found ourselves really hanging on in the second half so they are a hard team to play when on their own pitch.
“They play a nice brand of rugby and have a few pacy players who are dangerous. They will be a real challenge but for us it is about picking up as many points as we can over these next two games ahead of January.”
McCarter said the impact of the returning McMaster is already being felt at the club despite the former Head coach being unable to take a ‘hands on’ approach until January.
“Terry hasn’t been involved in training other than observing at the moment. He doesn’t really have time to do anything training wise until January but when Stephen Douglas goes in January, he will become much more hands on.
“Having Terry back has helped because it puts more pressure on players. It’s important to have that figure head.
“He has been on the phone to players who maybe haven’t been there and got them back in. It takes the pressure off us and allows us to concentrate on coaching which is what we were initially brought it to do.
“We still select the team, with some input from Terry but it is still down to ourselves. Even though the Dungannon game was off, it was nice to have a few selection headaches as to who we might have to leave out instead of trying to figure out who we could get pick.”
Injuries remain a problem for Derry and McCarter admitted the club are looking at the January 20th home date with Barnhall as a key date in the season.
“Injuries remain a problem at the minute and although we have strengthened slightly, we are still missing a lot of key players. It puts us in a position where we are basically planing for the second half of the season.
“We want to try and get as many points out of the Barnahall game and the rearranged Dungannon game as possible but we are realistically looking at getting everyone back fit and trying to kick on from January. We want to give it a real go in the New year.
New Year’s Eve looks the earliest possible date for that rearranged AIL game at home to Dungannon as the teams are due to meet in the Ulster Senior League and the game could be classed a ‘double header’ though McCarter is not too disappointed with the enforced rest after this weekend.
“The Christmas break is perfect for us because there are quite a few players who are nearly there in terms of fitness. Chris Barber should be back by January and he is an important player. Stuart Simpson should be fine also and is another important player. Davy Graham likewise so it’s a bonus for us to have a few free weeks to get these players back.
“We have a few Ulster League games in between but they are not the focus for us.
“After this weekend, it is all about January 20th when we meet Barnhall again.”