Based on league form alone, Down come into Sunday’s Championship meeting with Derry in the healthier position.
Under new boss Jim McCorry, Down secured promotion from Division II with Derry going in the opposite direction.
That relegation completed a fairly miserable 12 months for McIver’s side, who struggled badly in last year’s championship after impressing so many people during the spring. They lost a tight game with Donegal in the Ulster quarter-final before suffering a stunning defeat at home to Longford in Round 1 of the Qualifiers.
Derry captain Mark Lynch admitted recently that it was a “bad, bad summer” and he says the county are hopeful they can learn the lessons from 2014, when their positive league contrasted so sharply with what happened in the summer.
“We have approached it in the regard of trying to peak for the championship, that’s obviously your main aim at this stage of the season ,” said Lynch.
“However, we were still training hard and trying to do well in the league but it just didn’t work out. Hopefully, if at the end of the year we haven’t had a good season, we can still stand there and say that we peaked at the right times. But it’s something that will remain to be seen.”
Derry have named their team for Sunday’s game, and there is one debutant, with Slaughtneil full-back Brendan Rogers getting the number three jersey after impressing during his club’s run to the All-Ireland club final in 2014/2015.
Down have yet to name their team, but the good news is that Mark Poland is available for them, McCorry having confirmed recently that the Longstone clubman has recovered fully from the eye injury he sustained in the warm-up before the league final against Roscommon.
The winners of this game advance to the Ulster semi-final on June 27, where they will face either Armagh or Donegal.