AIL RUGBY: Terry McMaster knows league race has long way to go

City of Derry coach Terry McMaster
City of Derry coach Terry McMaster

City of Derry have taken 24 points from a possible 25 to open up a six-point lead at the top of Division 2B.

Terry McMaster’s side host third place Greystones at Judge’s Road and despite their lofty position the coach knows it’s early days.

“We don’t look at the league until January and I’ve always said that no matter what club I’ve been involved with, the league table doesn’t sort itself out until after Christmas. And at this stage it’s still a kind of false position that everybody is in,” said McMaster.

“We’ll take the position we’re in at the minute and we have been playing some lovely attacking rugby but it’s really January before we take any confidence in our league position.”

Derry gained a bonus point victory last time out at Dungannon and McMaster was glad of a week’s break after that game.

“We don’t often as a club go to Stevenson Park and have the game wrapped up after 30 minutes.

“ But sometimes that can become your downfall as well because we kind of let them back into it at the end but we would have taken a win let alone a bonus point win going there because it’s not easy.

“We lost a bit of concentration in the second half and let them in for a few scores.

“We have been kind of rotating our squad a bit.

“Thankfully we have a big enough one to do it, it will be nice to welcome everybody back this weekend and we have a full squad to select from.

“It will be another selection headache for myself and the other coaches.

“When you have five on the bench and you can roll on and off it becomes a squad game as opposed to the starting XV.

“We feel we have 20 really good squad players there, so we can bring on when we need them.

“It’s been nice over the last few weeks not having to start people like David Funston, Richard McCarter, David Houston and David Graham.

“Those are guys that would start in most AIL teams and to have them on the bench and be able to bring them on is a luxury.”

Greystones have won three and lost two of their five games and are 10 points behind Derry.

“It won’t be season defining but it will certainly give us a good indication in terms of where were are in terms of the top four.

“If we can get a win it will be great because it will keep the momentum and the confidence high but we’ll be wary of the threat Greystones pose and we certainly won’t be under estimating their ability.”

Armagh coach Alex McCloy is hoping to build on the bonus point win last time out against Rainey as they travel to Barnhall, the Orchard county side are fifth while the Dubliners are a place below on points difference.

“We played the top three at the start of the season and now we have the four teams below us so hopefully we can pick up as many points as we can before Christmas and use it as a springboard to get into contention.

“Barnhall are a place below us so it’s an eight pointer,” said McCloy.

Matthew Wright retains his place at scrum half while lock Josh McKinley and prop Philip Matthews are available after being with Ireland U19’s this week

And there is an Ulster derby at Hatrick Park as Rainey host Dungannon, the Old Boys are eighth and have Michael Pyper available while Gannon are a place below.