By Shaun Casey
A PREARRANGED family holiday will keep PJ O’Mullan settled during the build-up to this weekend’s All-Ireland Camogie final replay, but the Derry boss won’t be able to do much relaxing.
His side left Croke Park last Sunday with mixed emotions, but the overriding feeling was one of relief. While they were well ahead at half time, Meath battled back after the turnaround and had a free to win it at the death.
The ball went wide, and Derry lived to fight another day. “We got together on Monday night, and we’ve left instructions for the rest of the management team for Wednesday and we’ll get together again on Friday evening, I’m flying home on Friday morning,” said O’Mullan.
“To be fair, I’m not the only one the replay has posed a problem for, we had a couple of players who were due to fly out Wednesday to Sunday.
“It’s easier maybe for me because players, they have to prepare all week again and not really have much down time. I’m not playing and as long as I give them the platform they need; the players are the most important bit this week.”
Derry were 1-9 to 1-1 ahead at the start of the second half, but Meath, who underperformed in the opening period, rallied back into contention.
“There were a range of emotions and the one thing I will say is that we never felt we were comfortable at half time,” recalled O’Mullan. “We hadn’t been playing great we were just on top and we were getting our scores.
“Meath were awful in the first half, and we told the players that they’d never play as bad again and to expect the onslaught. There was a fair breeze blowing in Croke Park that people maybe weren’t aware of, and Meath were coming out to play with it in the second half.
“By the end of the game the emotion was relief, just to get the final whistle and we can refocus and regroup and get another go at it.”
Emotions aside, O’Mullan hopes his side can take enough learnings from last Sunday’s showdown and put them into practise in Clones this weekend.
“We watched the match back again and there’s so many learnings from it. It wasn’t so much what Meath were doing, it’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t continue to move the ball the way we wanted to and we were starting to hit the ball away and make mistakes.
“Meath gained energy from some of the things we were doing and the last 16 or 17 minutes it was like someone put a brick way up about 45 yards out and we couldn’t get past it, we maybe retreated a wee bit inside of trying to push on.”
There’s certainly optimism in the Oakleaf camp as they get another bite of the cherry. “There is a lot of optimism and why not? We’re still there and it’s whoever learns the most from the last day will probably come out on top.”