Young Derry hurlers face tough test in Castlebar
Allianz National Hurling League Division 2B: Mayo v Derry (tomorrow, 2pm, MacHale Park)
IT perhaps sums up the unpredictability of this particular tier that Mayo, last year’s Nicky Rackard Cup winners, finished above the Christy Ring champions Meath.
The pair of them present two considerable roadblocks for Derry’s chances of promotion back to Division 2B. Indeed, as fixture schedules go, it couldn’t get much tougher for Collie McGurk.
The Oak Leafers are away to their three promotion rivals, beginning in MacHale Park tomorrow and continuing in Navan next week, where they will face Meath. Their campaign finishes in Newry against a Down side that gave them a serious wake-up call in the McGurk Cup.
Derry will hand debuts to four young players in Castlebar, though he is sweating on the fitness of Liam Hinphey as he tries to shake off a hamstring strain.
Swatragh and Queen’s defender Patrick Turner will start in the full-back line while Kevin Lynch’s defender Ciaran Steele will most likely line up in the half-back division.
Another Kevin Lynch’s man, Gavin McCormick, will start in attack while St Patrick’s Maghera student Darragh Cartin, who hails from Banagher, is set to take his place in a fresh attacking division.
Sean McCullagh’s decision to commit for another season is a bonus following the return of the Hinphey brothers, and Ruairi Convery’s call to stay for at least one more year.
Mayo have lost Eoghan Collins - a cousin of Clare dual star Podge – after he signed up to play for Clare footballers. Goalkeeper Donal O’Brien, a native of Tipperary, has retired, while Ciarán Charlton has opted out owing to work commitments.
Their boss JP Coen will be able to call on dual stars Keith Higgins, David Kenny and Fergal Boland, the latter two on the fringes of Stephen Rochford’s squad.
In terms of promotion, it’s imperative that Derry bring something home, but it could prove a tall order for a relatively rookie side.