Cleary has clear vision of Derry’s task

By Michael McMullan

SATURDAY’S visit of London to Owenbeg is essentially an All-Ireland semi-final, insists Paul Cleary.

There are two rounds of the Christy Ring group format to go but defeat in Kildare has left Derry at jeopardy’s door this weekend.

Speaking after their win over Tyrone, Derry boss Johnny McGarvey felt two teams from Derry, Kildare and London would make it through to the decider in Croke Park. And it’s looking that way.

When the sides met in the league, Derry were 1-27 to 2-12 winners at Celtic Park but Cleary, like his manager, views that result as irrelevant in terms of Saturday afternoon in Owenbeg.

“The London game is a big one in terms of getting to Croke Park,” Cleary said.

“London, they’re on six points, same as Kildare, so they’re a damn good team,” the Ballinascreen man said.

“Basically now, after getting beat by Kildare, we’re just looking at this as nearly an All-Ireland semi-final and every game just has to be won now.”

Cleary feels there are two views of Saturday’s game. Those outside the camp may speculate that Derry would be expected to prevail, given their league win. Those inside the squad know better, as Cleary explained.

“We have too much experience,” he said. “I know myself, I respect London totally and know that they’re a good team. Championship and league, they’re just a different animal.

“I think back to last year, I think it was probably one of the best games I was ever involved in,” Cleary said of the Oakleafers’ 1-30 to 4-19 win over in Ruislip.

“They’re a very dangerous team and we know they have to be respected greatly.

“They probably have one of the best forwards and your man (Jack) Goulding needs to be watched.

“People outside the camp think that we should be beating London, but people in the camp have too much experience. Our attitude needs to be 100 per cent to beat them.”

Cleary, one of the most experienced players in McGarvey’s side, is fully away London aren’t travelling to make up the numbers.

This is crunch time and if Derry have any chance of going one better than last year’s final defeat to Meath, Saturday is where their pathway becomes real.

“On the other side, we fully believe we can beat London,” he added “Our attitude has to be 100 per cent.”

He refers to their draw in Wicklow when they missed enough to win two or three games. There was the league final win against Tyrone when they needed Sean Kelly’s goal to seal the deal.

“The same thing happened in the first half against Kildare, our attitude was bad in the first half but we brought it back in the second half,” Cleary said.

“It’s all about us and all we’ll be concentrating on is ourselves. If our attitude is right, we’ll win this game.

“These things move very quick, so we have learn from our mistakes and just move on.

“You don’t want to dwell too much on the things you do bad, we’ll take good points from it, but you have to move on and get stronger through that.”

Cleary feels the Derry squad is stronger this year with the addition of players coming off their successful u-20 teams.

Ruairí Ó Mianáin, Aimon Duffin and Callum O’Kane are among those to come in.

“They’ve strengthened the squad so much, they’re outstanding players, so we’re already in a better place than last year,” he said.

“The only thing maybe is that you’d hope the younger lads’ attitude will be right, but it will be for the weekend because there’ll be plenty of the older boys showing them the way.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW