By Niall Gartland
DIVISION 2A newcomers Derry have been thrown in at the deep end with a gruelling run of fixtures but their manager Johnny McGarvey says he’s been ‘encouraged’ by their performances to date.
They’re still searching for their first points of the campaign ahead of Sunday’s visit of Kildare (Celtic Park 12.30pm), but they weren’t completely out of their depth in their previous matches against Kerry and Offaly either.
The Oakleafers are in the midst of a transitional period, but on the whole their young hurlers have conducted themselves well in their two matches to date.
Manager Johnny McGarvey, a Lavey clubman who is new to the job, knows there’s very little margin for error in a hugely competitive division, highlighting unforced errors as a particular problem.
“Obviously we’re disappointed to have lost our first two matches but I felt we were fairly competitive in both games,” he told Gaelic Life.
“We ended up chasing the Kerry match and got caught on the break a lot, the game just got away from us.
“Offaly were the better team on the day, they scored three or four quickfire points at the start of the second half and they just blew us away after that, but I thought we competed fairly well.
“What hurt us most is that we made a lot of mistakes – mistakes you would get away with in Division 2B but not in this division.”
A dozen players who featured in Derry’s promotion final win over Sligo last season have departed for a variety of reasons, and that’s a lot of experience that has been lost. The young players who have been recruited have bundles of talent but Division 2A hurling is a difficult learning environment.
McGarvey said: “We’re playing a lot of young lads who haven’t played county hurling before. We’ve had about eight debutants who aren’t accustomed to playing 70-minute hurling matches but we’ve been reasonably encouraged by how things are going. We have plenty to work with but if you make mistakes at this level, you’ll be crucified by the likes of Offaly.
“They are young lads who are trying to make their way in the game. They’re good players and really work hard and we still have lads from the likes of Sleacht Néill who have plenty of experience. But on the whole, Division 2A isn’t a division for learning in, and that’s the problem.”
It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with Kildare in the pipeline, the same team that claimed a one-sided victory over the Oak Leafers in a top-of-the-table Division 2B clash last season.
“By all accounts that game was similar to our two league games to date – Derry were well in contention and then fell away and ended up well beaten.
“We’re very much in a situation where we need to be competitive in games for longer to give ourselves a chance of getting a result.”