By Kieran Lynch
DERRY get their 2023 Division 2A league campaign underway this weekend, with a home game against Cavan. Under the new management of PJ O’Mullan, they are hoping to kickstart a fruitful year.
The Oak Leaf County came up short, by a point, against Cork in the All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final last year.
Ahead of the new season, joint-captain Aine McAllister says that the Derry girls will have their eye on reaching the top of the mountain this year.
“We have a bit of a fresh start this year with new management on board, and a few girls who weren’t able to commit for a variety of reasons last year have come in,” she said.
“Getting so close last year and getting narrowly beaten, in a game which we underperformed in, now it’s about going that step further.
“We’re well capable – the potential of winning an All-Ireland is definitely within our own hands. For the last few months, we have been putting in the ground work of trying to build up fitness and morale within the team, so we’re looking forward to getting started.”
Whilst it may be very early in the year to be talking about championship aspirations, a strong league campaign can be the launchpad for championship success, and McAllister said that’s what O’Mullan has been preaching.
“PJ’s first goal is to try and gain Division One status for Derry camogie, and that’s something that maybe we should have already achieved before now,” she said.
“But we have things one step at a time, and this weekend will be the start of that. It’s an opportunity for some girls to showcase themselves. With new management it’s a fresh start for everyone.”
Ahead of the new season, McAllister has been named as joint-captain with Aoife Ní Chaiside, and she says that the pair are hoping to create an environment where teammates are happy to approach them.
“It’s fantastic to be named captain alongside Aoife Ní Chaiside, a player who I have spent my entire career alongside,” said McAllister.
“So, it’s great to share that honour with her. We both offer different things, bounce off each other, and hopefully the girls feel confident in coming to us, to ensure that everyone is happy within the camp and we’re all working towards the same things.”
They begin their season with a home fixture against Cavan this weekend. Cavan may be a Junior Championship side, but McAllister says Derry will be taking nothing for granted.
“It’s great to have our first game at home,” she said. “By no means will we be underestimating Cavan. They’re a good side, and they’ve done brilliantly over the last few years.
“For us, we’re more so looking at our performance levels. If we enjoy ourselves, put in a good performance, work hard and dust off the cobwebs, hopefully we’ll come away with the win.”