Derry’s season begins to heat up

By Michael McMullan

DERRY’S season heats up this weekend with the trip to fellow league title contenders Offaly.

After winning last year’s All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, the Oakleafers overcame Carlow, Cavan and Meath as they set eyes on the league silverware they left behind last season.

“We know the next two games are going to be tougher,” said Áine McGill of Saturday’s encounter and their trip to unbeaten Westmeath.

“Winning the league was one of the first goals for last year but maybe it worked out the right way because it gave us a shake before the championship that we needed.”

Lavey player McGill also feels it would be a “stepping stone” with their involvement in the Senior Championship this year.

With manager PJ O’Mullan staying on board from 2023 after being appointed late last season, it gave the Derry camp a chance to hit the ground running.

There have been new faces added to the panel and the conditioning work was already in place before the turn of the year.

A bonding weekend in mid-season last year was a turning point in their fortunes and O’Mullan has continued to build a tight bond in the group.

“PJ wanted it to feel like a club team and not a group of people from different clubs,” McGill said.

“It feels like that, like it is your team and you are as dedicated to it as you are to your club team

“That has changed and helped. We are all good friends and it helps with the atmosphere at training.”

It was helped with the management facilitating “open and honest” discussions within the group about their progress.

With the meetings and training sessions came the contact time that has united the squad.

Another important factor has been the influx of new players coming on board. Rachel Downey slotted in like she had been there for years.

When the minor season ended, Orlaith Hull and Eimear Doherty were added to the squad.

“Girls like that stepping in have been a huge boost,” McGill said. “They keep you on your toes and are the girls that are going to be the team in the next few years.”

It represents an exciting renaissance in camogie across the county with success at school and underage level giving hope for the future.

The magical atmosphere at last year’s replay win over Meath would have done wonders for the promotion of the game.

For now, it’s about taking another step toward a league title. Derry need a victory from their last two games. Their feat is in their own hands.

“If we win this weekend (against Offaly) then we are safe and through,” said McGill.

“We’d like to focus on not leaving ourselves having to win the last game and for us to get the spot this weekend.

“We know Offaly is going to be one of the toughest games. They will be looking to get back into the senior division and will be as keen as us to get the job done.

“Travelling does have an effect, it can make it more difficult but we can only control the controllables.”

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