Convery blow for Derry as they face Roscommon
Allianz Hurling League Division 2B: Derry v Roscommon (tomorrow, 1pm, Celtic Park)
RUAIRI Convery will miss Derry’s clash with Roscommon on Sunday because of a hamstring injury as the Oak Leafers turn their attentions towards safety.
The veteran Swatragh forward was forced off in the first half of his side’s defeat at home by Wicklow last weekend and will sit out at least tomorrow’s clash with Roscommon, if not also the final-day meeting with Down in Ballycran.
His absence will be offset somewhat by the return of Jonathan O’Dwyer, who had to sit out last weekend because of a one-match ban after being sent off in Meath the week previous.
Liam Hinphey is also set to make his first start of the season. The Kevin Lynch’s man came out of retirement along with his brother Kevin, but a hamstring injury prevented the younger sibling from featuring in Derry’s opening two games.
He came off the bench at half-time last weekend but was sent off midway through the second period having picked up two yellow cards.
The Hinpheys will both line up in the half-back line alongside Dominic Mullan, who is one of four Slaughtneil players included in the squad.
The young wing-back is joined by midfielder Éanna Cassidy, who made his inter-county debut last weekend, while their clubmates Ruairi McCartney and Mark McGuigan – who was part of last year’s panel – are on the bench.
Derry head to Celtic Park tomorrow with their eyes now firmly fixed across their shoulders, with the defeat by Wicklow all-but ending their hopes of promotion.
The class of the Garden county’s full-forward line, particularly the imposing and talented figure of Andy O’Brien, proved too much for an inexperienced Derry defence to handle.
There is the added element of revenge in the mix for this one, with Roscommon having comfortably beaten the Oak Leafers in the first round of last year’s Christy Ring Cup.
The result on its own was a surprise, never mind the 11-point margin, and it set the Oak Leafers down the path that would ultimately end in relegation to the Nicky Rackard Cup.
But this is a much-changed Roscommon team too, with some of their better hurlers having fallen by the wayside over the winter.
New manager Johnny Kelly stepped in but has had to cope without goalkeeper Noel Fallon, centre-back Michael Kelly and scoring forwards Cillian Egan and Thomas Featherstone, the latter of whom is now on the Roscommon football panel.
Jerry Fallon, who scored seven points from centre-forward in the sides’ meeting last year, now occupies the number one jersey, taking over from his namesake Noel.
In Naos Connaughton they have a tricky operator in the full-forward line, while Robbie Fallon’s pace at full-forward caused Down problems in the early moments of Roscommon’s trip to Ballycran at the beginning of the League.
Derry full-back Sean McCullagh could switch across to the corner on Connaughton, with either Patrick Turner or Darragh McCloskey taking the middle and the challenge of Fallon.
They were perhaps flattered to lose by just five that afternoon, and suffered a similar fate to Derry when they met Wicklow, losing by 2-17 to 0-7 at home.
Their meeting with Meath was postponed last weekend because of a waterlogged pitch in Athleague, to where the hurlers were banished while the footballers enjoyed the fruits of the fine new pitch in Dr Hyde Park.
Taking Convery out of the Derry full-forward line means Oisin McCloskey wears 14, though it’s more likely that Gavin McCormick, Jonathan O’Dwyer and even Alan Grant could drift in there while McCloskey plays deeper.
Roscommon will face Down in their Christy Ring opener later in the summer, finding themselves a level above Derry in terms of Championship grading thanks largely to that result last summer.
Derry are too far gone to worry what victory would mean for the faint promotion ambitions, but they very much need the win, and they should achieve it.
Derry: D McDermott; D McCloskey, S McCullagh, P Turner; K Hinphey, L Hinphey, D Mullan; B Óg McGilligan, E Cassidy; A Grant, J O’Dwyer, G McCormick; C Steele, O McCloskey, A Kelly
Subs: R McCloskey, E McGuckin, T O’Kane, R McCartney, M McGuigan, D Cartin, T Magee, T McCloskey, B Quigley, P Henry