Christy Ring Cup
Derry v Sligo
Sunday, Celtic Park, 2pm
THE crushing heartbreak of losing to Down may still be hanging around the Derry team on Sunday.
Their goal at the start of the year was to earn promotion up to Division 2A, and their destiny was in their own hands when they met Down in last week’s league final.
Cormac O’Doherty told this very publication that they were very wary of the Ardsmen, and they knew that they had to make sure to respect them.
Down, however, had the underdogs’ tag on their side, and Ronan Sheehan’s team used that to their advantage to fashion a 2-16 to 0-17 win.
What lessons can Derry learn from the game?
The main one is that their forward unit didn’t get enough from play. Sheehan had said in the build up to the game that the key for his team was to limit the amount of frees that they gave away to Derry. In the end they conceded 10 points from frees. Yet Derry only managed to hit seven points from play.
Perhaps that lack of cohesion up front could be blamed on the long period of downtime for the hurlers. Their last competitive game together was way back on March 1 when they beat Roscommon by 0-16 to 0-10. Yet their goals conceded record against Down highlights an issue that had already been present in their game. They had shipped seven goals in three games of the league, against London, Kildare and Warwickshire.
But now to turn our attention to this weekend’s game against Connacht outfit Sligo. We can expect a reaction from Derry.
If they need motivation it can be that they have never won the competition before. They closest they came to doing so was back in 2015 when they reached the final but lost to Kerry 1-20 to 0-12.
Last year they reached the semi-finals but exited at the hands of Meath.
So to Sligo, and Derry’s next match.
Sligo come into this game off the back of topping the Division 3B table. They played four matches and won all four of them.
They beat Leitrim in the final by 3-17 to 2-16. A key feature of Sligo’s campaign was their goal-getting abilities.
They scored 12 goals in the league stages and those three majors in the final.
But the real stat to take from that game was that Sligo hit more wides than they did points.
Such wastefulness will either make Derry think that they are coming up against a team who aren’t sharp enough to test them.
The alternative is that Sligo are a team who can create a lot of chances and a such they needed to be afforded a lot of respect.
The players to watch out for are Gerard O’Kelly who scored 3-4 in that final. Tom O’Kelly-Lynch managed 0-3 from frees.
For Derry, it was good to see scores from Paul Cleary and Odhran McKeever.
The injury to Richie Mullan is a concern though as, despite is youth, he is a super hurler and a very important player for the team.