Derry put unbeaten run on the line in Tyrone rematch

By Michael McMullan

WHEN Derry were seeing off Tyrone in the league final last month, Dara Mooney was darting down a Bulgarian ski slope.

As his first season began to take momentum, the realisation of missing the game became real.

With his teaching qualification tucked away, he has spent the last year as the Student’s Union President at St Mary’s College in Belfast, following the footsteps of older sister Maria.

Mooney had made the commitment to lead a 45-strong college ski group before Johnny McGarvey reached out.

It was the same call Mooney received last year but Sigerson football and study were already taking up enough time. Older brother Ruairi had picked up a medal in the last ‘Ranch’ winning team.

When Dara’s Derry senior debut came on a blustery February Sunday in Celtic Park, he hit the net and made a goal for man of the match Corey O’Reilly in a win over Tyrone.

Derry were a staggering 13 points up at one stage before Tyrone used the breeze to shave it back to five points.

“They ended up getting two red cards in the second half which probably helped us out a good bit, it slowed down their momentum and it was quite easy to see it out from there,” Mooney recalled.

With 2-6 to his name, he is one of those taking away the reliance Derry had on John Mullan and Cormac O’Doherty last season. O’Reilly and Cahal Murray have weighed in too.

Derry welcome Tyrone to Owenbeg again on Saturday. Casting his mind back over the first game, Mooney felt the Red Hands’ showing against the gale didn’t reflect their offerings.

He also goes back to last season and how Tyrone hurled excellently in a shootout that ended level.

“We are well used to them at this stage, it’s never an easy game with Tyrone,” he offered.

“They are a team that probably know us best out of everyone in the league.”

Aside from a draw with Wicklow, Derry have won all their other games and had they been more composed they’d have finished the league on full points.

Mooney returned to the side last weekend but it was a strong defensive display that saw Derry through.

For Mooney, he was deployed in a range of roles.

“I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad sight,” he joked down the phone as the sound of snooker balls clinking around in the Student’s Union behind.

Looking forward to Saturday and a third taste of Tyrone this season, Derry’s message is clear. It’s about keeping on trucking.

For Mooney, it’s a journey he’s enjoying. He hails the input of McGarvey, Conor Murray and Gareth O’Kane within the setup.

“It’s been great so far and I can feel myself hurling a lot,” he said of the progress.

“The first couple of games I settled in well, I scored a goal in my first game.

“Confidence is such a big thing, especially in hurling. I’m enjoying it big time and I’m hoping to carry that on into the next game.”

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