New league format will help Oaks grow

By Michael McMullan

DERRY manager Johnny McGarvey is proud of the display of his side this season despite losing Sunday’s Christy Ring Cup final to Kildare.

Speaking two days after their Croke Park defeat, the Lavey man was “gutted” for the players.

After digesting the game, he felt the penalty before half time wasn’t the correct call but was proud of how Derry were still battling right to the final whistle.

The Oakleafers will begin next season in the third tier of a new National League format and it will be a benefit.

“At the moment we’re only getting maybe one or two games against a team that’s probably going better than what we are,” he explained, “and one of them over the last two years has been the final.”

It wasn’t enough exposure to hurling outside their comfort zone. Now, there is a chance for more development.

While no discussions have taken place on McGarvey being given a third season, it would be a surprise if he is not back in charge.

“We’ll watch the club championship closely, we’ll see who’s floating about and who could make a difference to our squad,” he said, feeling “two or three” players would add to the bigger picture.

“There are players in the county that, if they do rediscover, or find a wee bit of form, or want to commit, there’s certainly more talent there.

“We love them to bits,” McGarvey said of the current squad. “They work so hard, they’re so committed, there’s just nothing that has ever been asked of them that they’re not prepared to do…we’re so proud of them.

“It showed in Croke Park on Sunday with a crowd of Derry people that were there. I saw people in the crowd I didn’t expect to when Derry footballers were playing (Armagh).

“We had as much support in Croke Park on Saturday as we’ve had in any match since I took the job and it was great to see. I think it just shows that, slowly but surely, people are going to start backing this team and they are going to come and support them.

“They can see what’s going on within that team and within that group of players. It is exciting to watch. Fair enough, we did get beat well enough in the end, but we played some great hurling in the final.”

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