Derry face midfield injury crisis ahead of Down Ulster SFC opener
Derry face an injury crisis in the midfield department ahead of their Ulster SFC opener against Down at Celtic Park on 7 June.
Manager Brian McIver is likely to be without five players for the first round clash with the Mournemen.
Patsy Bradley, Paudie McGuigan, Mark Craig, Emmett Bradley and PJ McCloskey are almost certain to miss the game.
McCloskey will not be returning to the Oak Leaf squad this year after tearing his cruciate ligament in 2013.
The midfield player remains unconvinced that he is able to return to inter-county football.
McIver has also confirmed that Gerard O'Kane has decided not to rejoin the squad after withdrawing from the panel in February.
The Derry manager's woes are exacerbated by the fact that Eoin Bradley broke a bone in his hand while playing for Glenullin against Kilrea.
Fergal Doherty is set to occupy one of the centrefield berths against Down but it remains to be seen who will partner him.
Slaughtneil duo Patsy Bradley (Achilles tendon) and McGuigan (groin) carried injuries into the All-Ireland Club final against Corofin and neither player has been fit to rejoin the Derry squad.
Craig is set to be absent for three to four months as he awaits surgery on an ankle injury while Emmet Bradley tore ligaments in his ankle on the first day of the league when Glen played Slaughtneil.