Lauren McKenna looking ahead to another Croke Park outing

By Michael McMullan

DERRY’S tight, pressure cooker encounters from last season are sticking to them, insists Lauren McKenna.

The Oakleafers’ were put to the pin of their collar last weekend against Offaly but prevailed, 0-10 to 1-6, to book a league final spot at Croke Park next month.

Derry will face Westmeath in their remaining group game this weekend safe in the knowledge of having booked the final spot they missed out on last season.

Meath edged out Derry before the Ulster side turned the table in a dramatic All-Ireland final replay in Clones.

Having played second fiddle for most of the drawn game, Derry finished the job in a replay that, itself, wasn’t without key moments.

McKenna, the star across both All-Ireland final games last season, looks back at the performance of Offaly’s goalkeeper last weekend. A string of fine saves looked like breaking Derry hearts and it took a late Offaly missed free to ensure victory.

“I think if we had got just one of them (goals) I think that would have just kicked us on a wee bit,” McKenna said.

“Thankfully they missed the free at the end and we got there by the skin of our teeth…it was like Meath all over again.We played them three times last year and that definitely stood to us. I feel like we know how to get through those sorts of games.”

Now, Derry don’t reach for the panic button. The experience banked is invaluable and they were fully aware of the challenge Offaly would bring after coming down from Division One.

“We now have a three-week schedule training schedule and obviously we’ll be getting a challenge game in there as well,” McKenna said of Derry’s league final preparations.

“PJ (O’Mullan) has it all arranged and everything. He’s a step ahead. He was on the ball on the way up the road on Saturday evening, so yeah, it’s a good position to be in.”

From the final whistle in Westmeath this weekend, it leaves two weeks ahead of the decider.

“They (Westmeath) are going to be another good side and we could potentially be playing them in the final, we don’t know,” McKenna said. “It’s good to go down there with a wee bit less pressure knowing that either way we’re in the final.”

McKenna’s inter-county road was a bumpy one with a series of injuries curtailing her preparations until last season.

The new management allowed the flexibility to fit recovery alongside preparation. It led to some fine performances on Derry’s title adventure.

“It’s really enjoyable,” she said of playing on the current Derry side. “There’s a lot of the girls that back from last year, the same girls you already have that bond with.

“Then, there’s obviously the good few extra ones that’s come through and I’ve joined the panel.

“I think that’s probably helped us as a team. I think it’s actually made us stronger. The competition for places is immense. It’s crazy like and I’m sure we’re giving PJ and the management quite a headache.

“But I suppose it’s a good place to be in and the girls have been a great addition to the team.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW