Derry Senior Hurling Championship final
Sleacht Néill v Kevin Lynch’s
Sunday, Owenbeg, 3pm
By Michael McMullan
SLEACHT Néill manager Michael McShane insists the champions have a stronger panel than ever as they bid for a tenth successive Derry hurling title on Sunday.
McShane is giving injured vice-captain Brendan Rogers until the 11th hour to prove his fitness for a fourth final meeting with Kevin Lynch’s in a row.
Rogers went under the knife last week for a procedure to help clear up a fractured wrist seven weeks ago and McShane rates his chances of playing “not any less or any more” than 50-50.
Speaking last week, the Emmet’s boss admitted he would not breathe easy until his squad made it through the weekend’s football action unscathed before picking his team.
“One thing we have that has been better than any other year, we have an influx of lads from the u-19 championship winning squad of the last two years,” said McShane, in his eighth season as manager.
“They have given us a bit more depth to the squad, but whatever happens, we’ll still be in a good place, but you want everyone to be fit and healthy coming into a final.”
McShane has not been afraid to hand youth their chance, with Shane McGuigan making his championship debut in an Ulster final and Shea Cassidy’s first outing in a county final examples of his ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ mantra.
A young player showing well on a Paul McNeill or a Karl McKaigue in training is deemed ready to step up to the mark.
“They were all physically and mentally ready for it and they have never let me down,” he said. “With the influx of the young lads, I have every confidence in them that they can come in a do a job for us.”
Sleacht Néill were comfortable winners over Ballinascreen, with Kevin Lynch’s pushed every step of the way by Swatragh in two contrasting semi-finals that will have “zero bearing” on Sunday’s showdown.
“You have to tip your hat to Swatragh this year, they put it up to us in the group stages and put it up to Kevin Lynch’s and they are a very improved team…they (Kevin Lynch’s) had to dig deep to beat them,” McShane said of Sunday’s opponents.
“We have nothing to learn about each other and it comes down to who performs best on the day. I’m confident we can win the game if we play to the highest standard.
“The Lynch’s are a good team, they are tenacious, they have a lot of good hurlers and they’ll die on their sword. We will have to make sure we can bring the same intensity and fight to it as they can.”
While Rogers is in the doubtful category, McShane is happy to see experienced duo Sean ‘Tad’ Cassidy and Seán Ó Caiside back in full training, thickening up his panel options.
‘Tad’ has a full reserve game under his helped and is looking “really sharp” in training.
“I am delighted that Seán Ó Caiside is back at training, he is looking really sharp and pushing hard for a place,” McShane added.
“Our team, panel and bench has become even stronger over the last couple of weeks and hopefully Brendan will add to that.
“The competition for places in the match day panel is equally as intense. These fellas coming back have added value and quality to the panel and everybody is fighting for a place.”