By Michael McMullan
CAPTAIN Jack Cassidy hailed the togetherness in the Derry camp after the county won their first All-Ireland U-20 B hurling title at the weekend.
Derry’s 3-17 to 2-14 win over Roscommon at Croke Park made up for losing two previous finals and it gives the county a boost going with the prospect of more players going into the senior ranks.
The Oakleafers had to look on as Down won the title last season after beating them in an agonising penalty shoot-out in the semi-final.
“We have worked very hard for the past five months,” said Cassidy, who was one of three players on the football panel.
“We met before Christmas and the lads (management) said if we bought into this, we can guarantee there will be silverware at the end of it.”
Derry lost the Ulster final to Antrim, but knew there was an All-Ireland campaign down the line as they set out to do what no other team from the county had ever done.
Cassidy put the belief down to a number of things. The talent on board and a management that have been together for five seasons since minor level.
“You get used to play together with them at underage and suddenly you are coming together in the same changing room,” he added.
“There is a special bunch of boys in there and there is a bond among us. Everyone is tight (he said, crossing his fingers to signify) and you got the feeling that something was going to happen…there was the ability to win silver down the line.”
His father Declan was a back-to-back Ulster champion with Derry at senior level, a success built on an All-Ireland senior B title in 1996.
“I have a bit more winning to do to get to his level,” Jack laughed.
Cassidy hit two points in Saturday’s win, but puts Derry’s success down to their grip in the third quarter when Roscommon turned the heat up on the game once more.
“Roscommon, they were very physical and very tenacious team. They definitely put it up to us,” the skipper said.
“Our battling in the second half in the middle of the park, it was alike a war zone in the middle of the pitch with 15 minutes to go. We came out on top and I think that was the winning of the game.”
Cassidy is hoping the success can help add more competition at club level and, in turn, push the senior county team on
“There is silverware to be won and there are some great hurlers in Derry,” he concluded.