Derry need more of the same to keep Croker hopes alive

By Michael McMullan

BEATING London will be irrelevant if Derry don’t back it up in Saturday’s final Christy Ring Cup group game in Sligo, insists attacking ace Cormac O’Doherty.

With the top two teams advancing to the final, a win for London at home to Kildare this weekend would mean a Derry victory makes it a three-way tie with score difference coming into vogue.

“It was very much our focus,” O’Doherty told Gaelic Life of Saturday’s 2-22 to 2-13 win over London.

“We knew winning means nothing if we don’t perform next week (against Sligo) and get another win and then hopefully the results fall our way and we can get another trip back to Croke Park.

“It’s far from it (certain),” he added. “Kildare have to travel to London next week and we still have to play Sligo.”

After winning the league and securing their spot in tier three of next season’s new-look NHL format, Derry’s losing in Kildare has been their only defeat of the year.

Aside from the deflation in defeat, O’Doherty spoke of the preparations during the season and the regret of not tapping into it when the pressure was on.

“It was a higher level than we have faced this year,” he said. “It was good to get that test. We learned a lot about ourselves individually and collectively.

“It’s a fairly new group, a very inexperienced playing group with a lot of young boys coming on there.

“A game of that magnitude, at that level, definitely showed a lot of things that we need to work on. We didn’t perform, we probably didn’t do ourselves justice.”

After two weeks of preparations, Derry dusted themselves down before taking on a fancied London who had shot an average of 3-24 across their previous games.

On the other side, manager Johnny McGarvey has more balance to an attack the often relied on O’Doherty and John Mullan for scores on the way to last year’s final defeat to Meath.

“I suppose everybody wants to take that wee bit of pressure on themselves but this year definitely Ruairí (Ó Mianáin) has come in and there’s been a breath of fresh air about the set-up.

“Corey (O’Reilly) is there, Paul Cleary came on and chipped in with one. Christy (McNaughton) finished with 1-1 and John scored.

“Whenever you get people chipping in from all around the pitch, it makes it so much easier.

“We do talk about that, to win hurling matches, you’ve got to get to that 25 points to make yourself competitive.

“Today, against a real strong opposition, we managed to do that, which is very, very pleasing.”

There was also a word for Derry’s defence who, in front of his older brother Oisin, tightened up in the second half.

“They’ve kept us out of a lot of holes this year and today was no different,” he summed up.

There was also a big stop save with five minutes to go.

“There was some big moments in that second half. Oisin’s save, after that we hit the next two or three points and it really just killed the game.”

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