By Michael McMullan
SUNDAY’S trip to Carlow is a must win game in Johnny McGarvey’s book.
A draw would be enough if Kerry beat Down at home, but McGarvey isn’t dealing in the maybes as the Oakleafers aim to beat the drop straight back to Division 2B.
Derry were without a point going into Sunday’s visit to Ballycran and came seconds away and a refereeing decision away from a victory that would’ve left them safe. Sean Cassidy was blown up for a throw late in stoppage time allowing Pearse Óg McCrickard to slot over a free that took Down off the relegation spot on score difference.
“If it’s a throw I have no issue with the free being given, but you have to be sure,” McGarvey said, referencing a lack of consistency.
“Realistically, if we don’t get a result in Carlow, we’re getting relegated because that decision gets blown yesterday,” was McGarvey’s take on a “gut-wrenching” call when other similar passes went unpunished.
“Consistency is all you want and I don’t think that’s what we are getting at the minute. We were very disappointed, but it should’ve never come down to the refereeing decision.
“We should’ve had the job done ourselves; we had the chances in the second half that we just didn’t convert.”
It has been a season of transition for the new boss who came in after Dominic McKinley and Cormac Donnelly stepped down.
In what would’ve been a competitive group, Derry were behind the pack with late preparation and players opting out of the panel.
Their season has had moments of promise. There were steady starts against Kerry and Offaly before leaving themselves too much to do after a slow start against Kildare.
“Down had nine points scored in the first 11 minutes and then we played well for the rest of the match,” McGarvey added, saying how the two slow starts have cost them.
“It should’ve never came down to the refereeing decision. We should’ve had the job done ourselves, we had the chances in the second half that we just didn’t convert. That’s the learning of it. We played well in spells and yesterday was the best we have played.
“If we had been offered the chance of going to the last match with a fighting chance I think we’d have taken that.”
McGarvey will be without u-20 player James Friel, who is unavailable to work placement, and was assessing Eamonn Conway’s groin injury ahead of their crunch Carlow clash.
“Carlow are in the (relegation) mix and they need a result,” he added. “It’s like going into the Down match, we’re going in to get the job done and that’s the way we’ll approach every game.”
McGarvey has been impressed with Friel, Segdae Melaugh, Aimon Duffin and Callum O’Kane who are also part of the u-20 squad.
“They are exactly what we are looking for in Derry, young lads who want to play hurling for Derry and are prepared to put the shoulder to the wheel to do it,” he said.
“We are reasonably happy with the panel we have and we will be adding to it in the next couple of weeks with boys who have been carrying injuries.
“We’ll see how that pans out. There are some super players in the u-20s and they didn’t deserve to lose the game (Saturday’s final against Antrim) the way they did.”