League final spot in Derry’s own hands

By Michael McMullan

DERRY will be aiming to secure their league final spot this weekend with eyes beginning to focus on next month’s start of the Christy Ring Cup.

With six points from wins over Tyrone, Donegal and London, Derry are guaranteed promotion and manager Johnny McGarvey is content with their progress.

More complete performances will be needed as they aim to go one better than last year’s Christy Ring Cup final defeat to Meath.

“We couldn’t have many complaints,” he said of having promotion in the bag.

“Now we want to win the league and start our preparations for the Christy Ring.

“It was about getting up into a higher division with a bit more quality in it.

“Two points against Wicklow would take us to the league final and that is the path we want to be on.”

It’s McGarvey’s second year at the helm having being appointed at the eleventh hour ahead of the 2023 campaign.

He is content with the preparations. There are a few niggling injuries but no more than any other county.

“Training has been very good,” he added. “Our results have been there but I wouldn’t say we were overly happy with how we played.

“There were spells in matches that have been good here and there but we haven’t been as good over the course of a game.

“Maybe we have set our expectations that high that we want to play better over a longer period of time.

“We know when it comes to the Christy Ring that we will have to play to a higher level.”

Eamon Conway is back in light training on his way back from a groin operation over the winter and is expected back on the pitch in the coming weeks.

Sean Francis Quinn is touch and go for the season after undergoing a groin operation four weeks ago.

Paddy Kelly tweaked a groin in the week of the London game and failed a pre-game fitness test but McGarvey is hopeful the experienced defender will be available for selection this weekend.

“Sean Kelly hasn’t played in the league with a hamstring injury but we are hoping he will make it for Wicklow,” McGarvey added.

The Derry camp are happy with the progress of the newcomers this season. Ruairí Ó Mianáin has carried his u-20 form into the senior grade.

Cahal Murray and Dara Mooney have given Derry an extra scoring dimension in attack. Defenders Aimon Duffin and James Friel are now in their second season.

“Then you add in the experience of Cormac (O’Doherty), Meehaul (McGrath), Mark Craig, ‘Tad’ (Sean Cassidy) and Paul Cleary.

“We have a good balance with the boys in the middle like John and Richie (Mullan) and Corey O’Reilly.

“We have a good blend in the squad and it is showing on the pitch, we are playing good hurling.”

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