Hurling and camogie

Derry hurlers must sweep Kerry aside to earn All-Ireland honours

Derry's Odhran McKeever races away from Anto Byrne and Danny Staunton of Wicklow at Celtic Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Steven Doherty

All-Ireland Under 21B Hurling Championship final (Nowlan Park, Kilkenny at 2pm): Kerry v Derry (Live on TG4)

 

Derry run out in Nowlan Park this afternoon, having progressed to the All-Ireland Under 21B final at their first attempt, and it’s a venue manager Collie McGurk is keenly anticipating.

“Nowlan Park is a big plus for us,” said McGurk.

”The game’s live on TG4 as well. It’s the second time in 12 or 13 months that we’ve been live on TV for a big All Ireland game, and when you’re a youngster growing up that’s what you aspire to. It’s for days like this, and to get a wee bit of coverage that we never had over the years.

”Thankfully this is a real bonus for us.”

With lengthy nationwide trips already undertaken, including wins in Leitrim over Mayo and in Trim over home side Meath, McGurk commented: “There used to be an old advert – ‘join the navy and see the world’.

“We used to joke that if you want to see Ireland join Derry hurlers, because we’ve been up and down the country and all over.

“And we’re not done yet.”

In contrast to today’s opponents Kerry, Oakleafers have had to battle and scrap to make it to the All-Ireland final.

Carrick-on-Shannon, and only a week after the tragic death of player Aodhan O’Donnell, witnessed a victory over Mayo that just about summed up this Derry outfit – courage, character and goals.

If anything the semi-final win over Meath was even more stunning.

McGurk’s men had to win it twice. Making a mockery of the underdog tag, Derry soared to a 2-7 to 0-5 lead after half an hour of action.

But the home side, taking advantage of a couple of defensive howlers, rallied and led 3-14 to 3-12 as the fiercely-contested game entered injury time. But despite battling both Meath’s momentum, home support and a strong headwind, Derry dug deep with Slaughtneil men Shane McGuigan and Brian Cassidy posting monster points to drag the visitors over the line in dramatic fashion.

Unfortunately for Derry, the hero in Trim - Cassidy - won’t make the final.

“Brian Cassidy’s definitely out with a broken foot,” lamented McGurk.

“He picked up a knock in our last game.

“He’s going to recover alright but it’s going to take time and it’s time he doesn’t have.

“Fortunately there’s good depth in our squad – we’ve Odhran McKeever to come back in that will give us options, and I’ve a few decisions to make.” Reigning champions Kerry brushed aside Kildare with eleven points to spare in their quarter-final win, before filleting Sligo 4-26 to 0-8 in the semi. “Yes, it’s a very good Kerry team. It’s going to be very, very difficult.

“Somebody said they had nine players who have sampled senior hurling. They won it last year,” he added.

“It’s going to be a very difficult task but it’s one the fellas will warm to.

“The underdog tag wouldn’t really be the motivating factor.

“The fellas just want to get an All-Ireland medal in the pocket.

“A lot of them have very distinguished playing careers to date but just haven’t got over the line.

“This would be significant progress if we could get over the line this time.”

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