Hurling and camogie

Derry out to break the norm

TOP PERFORMER: Derry midfielder Conor McAllister excelled in the Ulster final win over Down
By Padraig Kelly

All-Ireland U21 Hurling Championship semi-final: Derry v Kilkenny (today, Semple Stadium, 4pm, live on TG4)

A SEMI-FINAL rout, that's pretty much been the lot for the Ulster U21 sides when they head south for the All-Ireland series, and the 20/1 that Derry carry into their game with Kilkenny today suggests more of the same.

If you were to examine nine of the last 10 semi-finals, you'd see an average losing margin of 19.78 points for teams from this province. But then there's that other game that keeps us guessing.

Back in 2013, Wexford were unbackable favourites against Antrim but goals from Ciaran Clarke and Stephen McAfee saw the Saffrons become the only Ulster side to reach the final since the competition began in 1964.

Derry boss Collie McGurk will be preaching about the peculiar, the unexpected result that slaps ‘sure-thing' predictions in the face once in a blue moon.

What's more, McGurk will know that Eddie Brennan's players are susceptible to it with the likes of Darren Brennan, Conor Delaney, Jason Cleere, Liam Blanchfield and captain Pat Lyng, who misses out today, all featuring in their stunning Leinster loss to Westmeath last year.

To have even the slightest sniff of an upset though, they will have to start better than they did against Down in the Ulster final when they conceded 1-2 in the first four minutes.

They could come back from that in Corrigan Park, but there will be no chance of a similar reversal in Thurles. They must hurl for 60 minutes like they did for 56 minutes against the Ardsmen.

It was all one-way traffic after the initial stumble with two goals from Corey Reilly and a Cormac O'Doherty effort helping them to a comfortable 3-17 to 1-9 win. O'Doherty also grabbed two penalty goals in the semi-final against Antrim and he will be one of the players Brennan will have identified as a threat.

It's the Derry defence that will be key tomorrow though against an attack that has grabbed 1-72 in three games.

That backline excelled against Antrim despite the concession of three late goals and dominated Down after the early blip.

If they can play to their very best, then the rout can be avoided at least.

Galway and Limerick will play afterwards (6pm) in the second semi-final.

Derry: TBA

Kilkenny: D Brennan; M Cody, C Delaney, N McMahon; D Mullan, J Cleere, T Walsh; L Scanlon, H Lawlor; R Leahy, J Donnelly, S Morrissey; S Walsh, L Blanchfield, B Ryan

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