Sargent has big ambitions with Derry

By Niall Gartland

DERRY minor captain James Sargent has already made quite a name for himself as a burgeoning young talent, and he’s hoping to pocket his second successive provincial medal at this level against Armagh this weekend.

The Oakleafers won last year’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland title and Sargent is one of a batch of players still eligible this year and still imposing themselves in the white heat of championship football.

Ultimately, this grade is a stepping stone and Derry’s upsurge in fortunes at senior intercounty level in recent years is certainly something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Lavey midfielder.

He said: “It definitely gives you that wee bit of encouragement, it makes you want to work harder in training.

“You see the senior lads in Owenbeg and you’re nearly starstruck, and you want to be in their shoes. It gives me that bit of extra motivation to work even harder as it’s where I want to find myself in a few years time.”

Derry have marched into the Ulster final unbeaten, and they can take confidence from the fact they got the better of the Orchard County when they met in the group stages. Sargent is already experienced enough to know that an Ulster final is a whole new ball game.

“Knock out is completely different. In the semi-final we beat Tyrone and we had to work hard for every score, it was a big step up in intensity from our group matches. Armagh will have learnt a lot from our group stage encounter and we’ll have to give it everything.”

The Oakleafers were somewhat out of sorts against Tyrone in their last-four meeting on Saturday. They mustered only 1-2 in the first half, but were much improved after the break and eventually ran out seven-point victors.

Sargent said: “We weren’t like ourselves at all in the first half. We took the ball into contact and Tyrone disrupted us. I think there was a bit of nervousness about it as well.

“Everyone talks about how many lads we still have involved from last year, but we have a lot of new boys too, and they stepped up against Tyrone, they led the counter-attacks.

“I have to give them big credit, they were probably the game-changers in my opinion.”

Derry’s half-forward line was particularly lethal in the second-half with Eamon Young and Caoimhin Hargan catching the eye in particular.

“It’s probably the hardest working line in the entire time. The ground they cover is unbelievable, they put in a serious amount of tackles, and once they click the whole team clicks.”

Q&A – James Sargent

1 What is your name, position and club?
James Sargent, I am either centre half back/midfield and my club is Lavey.

2 What are the county team hoping to achieve in this season’s Electric Ireland Minor Championship?
Basically to build on last year’s success on go on to retain the Electric Ireland Minor Championships. But we know we must take it one game at a time. There are no guarantees. At this stage, we’re just excited to get going as a team.

3 How does it feel leading your county minor team as captain?
It’s a great privilege to be a county captain for this team. On a personal level it feels very special.

4 Who on the team trains the hardest?
The best trainer on the team would have to be Niall Mackle, Greenlough or Dara McGuickin, Ballinderry. Both lads are absolutely tireless and help set the bar for the others.

5 Who’s your GAA idol?
I have two GAA idols that I look to often – Michael Murphy and Bernard Brogan.

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