Hurling and camogie

Derry hurling manager Tom McLean remains positive

DERRY manager Tom McLean is hoping his young side can emerge victorious from their crucial clash with Kildare on Sunday and so retain the county's place in Division 2A of the National Hurling League. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Sean O'Neill

DESPITE the dire position Derry hurling find itself in, manager Tom McLean is remaining up-beat.

Having lost their opening four games in Division 2A, the Oakleafers travel to Newbridge on Sunday for what is effectively a last game relegation shoot-out with Kildare.

The Lilywhites, who were promoted last year from 2B, have fared little better than Derry and have only one point to show so far for their efforts - having drawn with London.

McLean, who, when we spoke was at Owenbeg on "a nice fresh night" was in optimistic form himself as he accentuated the positive ahead of the vital clash.

"It's winner takes all on Sunday now," he declared.

"We’re still staying very positive. The lads are all working hard and the training has been good.

"It’s a matter of going down on Sunday and doing everything that we have always done before the matches. [That is to] prepare well, you get the fellas in the right frame of mind and you go out and you play it like a cup final – you give it one hell of a lash and hopefully you come out the right side of it.

"Kildare are at home and they are in the same position as ourselves – they need the points and the fact that they are at home – I would see that as giving them a slight advantage.

"But look, it’s all to play for and it’s like a cup final - it’s who performs on the day. The last time we played Kildare two years ago down in Newbridge it finished up a draw."

So far Derry have only taken one heavy beating, when they lost by 22 points. They had three players lined that day in a game during which they also simply seemed not to turn up. Their other three games were much closer affairs and the performances in defeat have also given McLean cause to hope that better days may be ahead.

Cahair O'Kane, Neil Loughran and Andy Watters on this week's hurling action from Division 1B-2B

"I’ll be very honest with you – I knew it was going to be right and tough [this year]," he insisted.

"We looked at the games against Antrim, Westmeath and Carlow – it was going to be hard but we thought that we could nick something out of some of these matches.

"[And] London now was one I thought we would get something out of but again London played very well last Sunday. They were a big strong team who were well able to hurl.

"Things just didn’t go right for us – we hit the post a couple of times and we missed a couple of chances. But that’s just the way it’s been going for us.

"We lost by three to London, we lost by three to Westmeath and we lost by four to Antrim. So we’re not that far off the mark – I just think that maybe when you go on a wee run like that it’s sometimes hard to break the sequence."

It also, of course, bears repeating just how many players have been lost to Derry through, mainly, retirements but also to injury.

"Out of the panel of 32 players that we had last year – we lost 17 of them," said McLean. "And from the team that played in the final of the Christy Ring – we used 18 players and we lost 11 of them. So that’s where we’re at."

That is indeed a serious loss of personnel but McLean chose, again, to concentrate on the positive.

"I couldn’t say one word about one player who has played in that Derry jersey whether coming on as a sub or starting," he stressed.

"They are all giving more than a hundred percent and that’s all you could ask for. The fellas who have come in – everyone has worked really hard.

"Out of our panel of 28, we have 11 U21s and those young fellas are all like a breath of fresh air around the place.

"They are all working hard and putting in their effort and hopefully it will pay off for us on Sunday and we’ll get staying in 2A."


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Hurling and camogie