Derry aim to topple Kildare to reach Christy Ring decider
Christy Ring Cup semi-final: Derry v Kildare (tomorrow, Inniskeen, 4pm)
DRAMA has followed Derry’s every move on the meandering path through their Christy Ring campaign, with Collie McGurk’s side well tested ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final clash with 2014 winners Kildare.
They could have been on the outside looking in, had Cormac O’Doherty missed his last gasp ‘65’ to secure the seven point win they needed to qualify from their group.
On the other side of the coin, the Oakleafers could have been playing Wicklow tomorrow.
Derry led London by two points in stoppage time of the opening group game before contriving to throw away a victory that would have saw Derry advance as group winners.
If O’Doherty’s tally of 1-17 last Saturday wasn’t a dramatic enough story, then the identity of Derry’s goalkeeper was an interesting sub plot.
With a groin injury to Michael Kirkpatrick and the lack of experienced cover, McGurk lured former attacking axis Ruairi Convery out of retirement to fill the void between the posts.
Kirkpatrick opted out of the panel this week so Convery is set for his second game in goals.
Brendan Rogers, who scored 3-3 in last season’s Nicky Rackard semi-final win over Monaghan at the same venue, faces an uphill battle to be fit for selection with a dead leg sustained against Donegal in the UIster SFC.
McGurk won’t finalise his selection until after today’s football qualifier in Owenbeg, to check on the welfare of Rogers and captain Chrissy McKaigue.
Definitely out are suspended duo Cormac McKenna and Colm Murphy who will also miss the final, should Derry advance.
McGurk confirmed that Liam Óg Hinphey has rejoined the panel, bringing more experience to bolster their defensive options.
Brian Cassidy is also part of the U20 squad who are set to play Down on Sunday in Clones (2.00). A 60km journey has ruled out any involvement in both games, with Cassidy set to start for the hurlers in Inniskeen.
He will start up front with Sé McGuigan as an inside two, with Cuala’s Naoise Waldron dropping out to leave space.
One of Derry’s most potent threats has been the direct running of Meehaul McGrath, who has made the number 11 shirt his own under McGurk.
Last year’s captain Oisin McCloskey has been on the sidelines with tendonitis but made an appearance against Down. So too did this season’s top scorer Alan Grant on his way back from a broken finger. Both are expected to play some part in the game.
Kildare finished bottom of division 2A, with five straight defeats but under the guidance of former Limerick goalkeeper Joe Quaid, they have bounced back in the Christy Ring Cup.
Wins over Mayo and Roscommon, set them up for a final game with Wicklow to decide who topped the group.
They have seven of the team that beat Kerry (4-18 to 2-22) in the 2014 Christy Ring Final.
Two goals either side of half-time from substitute Jack Sheridan (who finished with 2-5) put the Lily Whites on their way to a 4-19 to 3-18 win over the Garden County.
Martin Fitzgerald (2-1) and Shane Ryan (0-3) will be other names in Derry’s thoughts as they plot a pathway to Croke Park.
Eamonn McGill was strong under the high ball in Derry’s half back line. They will look to the Lavey man, as well as Slaughtneil duo Sean Cassidy and Chrissy McKaigue to put the clampers on Kildare’s attack.
Derry’s problem has been not killing teams off. In all three games so far, they have passed up goal chances, which almost derailed their season.
Selector Mickey Glover billed the Down game as the county’s biggest championship game in recent seasons.
It will have primed Derry for Sunday. But there are more questions than answers. Derry have played in fits and starts, without clicking for a full game. With the carrot of Croke Park dangling before their eyes – this is the time to deliver.