2023: A Derry good year

A look back on some of the Derry memories of 2023…

1 Same again

DERRY ended a 24-year gap to get their hands on the Anglo Celt Cup in 2022 and they backed it up following another installment of extra-time on final day. It needed penalties and Odhrán Lynch making three saves before Ciaran McFaul drilled the winner into the top corner.

Derry were a whisker away from All-Ireland final day after their impressive showing against Kerry came up short. It was a season that also saw Derry promoted back to Division One with Brendan Rogers, Shane McGuigan, Gareth McKinless and Conor McCluskey selected as All-Stars with Ethan Doherty named as Young Player of the Year.

Off the field, it was a tricky year with Rory Gallagher stepping down before Ciarán Meenagh took charge for the season’s conclusion.

Then came the seismic news of Tyrone icon Mickey Harte taking over as manager. Never be shocked on planet GAA.

2 Crest of a wave

ON the camogie front, Derry’s knocking on the All-Ireland door eventually paid off.

Under PJ O’Mullan and his management team, the Oaks repeated their 2007 story – their last All-Ireland success – by keeping their fans on the edge of their seats against Meath on a pulsating afternoon in Croke Park.

The replay, for anyone lucky enough to be there, was a brilliant occasion. The standard of camogie was top drawer with plenty of thrills and spills before Derry were left standing as champions.

It was only the tip of the iceberg. Derry also had All-Ireland underage success with St Patrick’s, Maghera also winning every title available to them.

Chairperson Paddy Downey has pulled together some great people and it’s exciting times.

Only last week, Mary Jo Boyle, was elected as Derry Ladies chairperson and that will spark a change of focus on that front as well. One only has to look at the progress in Lavey with dual players.

3 Croker Oakers

THERE was also progress on the hurling front in Derry. Ryan O’Neill’s management team have been on board at underage level since their days winning u-17 Celtic Challenge titles.

This year saw progression in the shape of an All-Ireland u-20 B title with the added bonus of winning the silver on the hallowed sod of Croke Park.

In the first half Ruairí Ó Mianáin’s aim was off before he found his range to help Derry to a memorable win.

At senior level, Johnny McGarvey had the thankless task of taking over the senior hurlers at the eleventh hour with a host of players stepping away. And they were back up in Division 2A.

They were relegated by the puck of a ball before a redemption story taking them to the Christy Ring Cup final where a poor start came back to bite them. One that got away.

4 Production lines continues

DERRY went 13 seasons with an Ulster Minor title until Conor Glass lifted the trophy in 2015 under manager Damian McErlain.

Since then, the Oakleafers have played in seven of the last nine finals and their All-Ireland glory was another glorious chapter in the summer of ’23.

Derry lost the league final, with the last kick, but it proved the kick in the back side a heavily fancied side needed.

There was the drama of penalties on Ulster final day against Monaghan with Jack McCloy making vital saves before Conall Higgins stepped forward to kick the winner after his pressure kick took the game to penalties.

After wins over Galway and Dublin, Derry were back in Armagh again on All-Ireland final day. It was Monaghan again and once again Fionn McEldowney was climbing the steps to collect the cup.

5 Watt a year

GLEN closed out 2023 like they did 2022, as Ulster champions with an All-Ireland semi-final with Kilmacud Crokes to get their teeth into after the controversial end to January’s final.

They became the seventh club to retain the title and their showdown with Scotstown was a game befitting of a final. It was excellent.

After so many hard luck stories, the ladies of Steelstown eventually made the breakthrough to win the Ulster title with plenty of excitement along the way. They will have the regrets of coughing up a cheap goal at the end of their All-Ireland semi-final with the finish line in sight.

Lavey’s football story just keeps on growing. Only newly formed on the football front, the underage teams are flying and their seniors backed up their 2022 Derry junior title with Derry and Ulster success. And they are only starting.

The camogs of Drumsurn were also winners on the Ulster stage with their eye for goal shooting them to the Bridie McMenamin Shield title.

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