Hurling & Camogie

Derry determined to claim Croke Park win over Westmeath insists Dervla O’Kane

Oak Leafs lost to Lake County in last game of League campaign

PJ O'Mullan talks to the Derry players ahead of their drawn All-Ireland final against Meath back in August. Picture by INPHO
PJ O'Mullan's Derry side take on Westmeath in this weekend's Division 2A decider. Picture by INPHO
Very Ireland Camogie Division 2A final

AHEAD of Saturday’s Division 2A decider against Westmeath, Derry vice-captain Dervla O’Kane admits she can’t remember not wanting to win whatever competition her team was playing in.

“Our aim last year was to get into a League final and we lost to Meath in the last group game, so we were disappointed not to be there,” she said.

“Our aim this year was to be contesting the final on Sunday, and we have got there. The year before we felt that we were unlucky not to reach the All-Ireland final - we knew then that we were roughly in the ball-park where you could be winning trophies and it’s all about taking the next step.”

But the Swatragh midfielder-cum-forward also realises that Leagues are about building a panel of players that can win a Championship later in the season.

“We had a good few younger players coming into the panel last year, and there were others missing through injury.

“For a few years before that, the players were a similar age and we knew each other well. The new girls were different age-bands to the rest of us and it took a while for everything to gel together as a team.

“That really didn’t happen until the Championship came around.”

Derry, of course, went on a Championship run that took them to Croke Park and beyond before the All-Ireland intermediate title was won – but things didn’t quite go to plan in the final in Croke Park.

“It’s everyone’s dream to play a final in Croke Park and it is a great experience. We started okay but in the second half Meath got a bit of momentum built and with the big pitch and all the noise it was hard to get the message across to our players.

“Things could have gone either way at the end, but we got a replay out of it and Clones probably suited us.”

The Oak Leafs are back in Croke Park to face Westmeath on Saturday and O’Kane is looking forward to another game on the big stage.

“The more times you play in Croke Park, the better.

“We have a few new faces this year and those of us who were there last year will be impressing upon them to focus on the performance, treat it like another venue and enjoy it after the game is over.”

In contrast to 12 months ago, when manager PJ O’Mullan was working with a smaller panel of players, he has been trying to give plenty of game time to all players on this season’s bigger panel.

“There hasn’t been a set team for every game. Everyone has been getting game time and training has been very competitive.

“We played Westmeath in the last group game and they beat us. We have played them a few times in recent years and they were probably unlucky not to reach last year’s All-Ireland final. They will always give you a tough physical game.

“But we are in a National League final in Croke Park - that’s where we wanted to be at the start of the year. We just need to produce the performance that gets us up the steps of the Hogan.”

Very Ireland Camogie Division Four final

TYRONE manager Paul O’Grady is hoping to get “a full 60 minutes” out of his team in Saturday’s Division Four final against Wicklow in Darver.

“When we played them in the group stages we were in a good lead at half-time,” recalled the Mayo native, who is now based in Killyclogher.

“We kind of switched off for a period during the second half and Wicklow just kept coming back and closing the gap. In the end we won by six points, but it was a far from comfortable win.

“We have won all our games so far and that is great for the players, it keeps everyone motivated and all. But we have goals set within games and sometimes the team just hasn’t met those particular goals. We are really pushing those, helping them become better players.

“Look, we are lucky in the sense that we have come into the county set-up this year and a lot of work has been done at underage level, at schools’ level.

“There has been great development work done in the clubs and a level of success at underage county, a lot of good people at all levels there putting in a serious amount of work.

“Players have come through that system and we feel they are ready to take the next step.”

O’Grady’s grandmother, Elizabeth McNeice, played camogie in Casement Park the day it opened while his grandfather Colm played for both O’Donnell’s and McDermott’s.

The family then moved from Belfast to Ballina around the outbreak of the Troubles, and his cousins remain involved with clubs in the west of the city.

O’Grady grew up in Mayo, whom Tyrone beat in the opening round of the league, and has also been involved with Omagh, who have made a positive start to the season – therefore he has a real bounce in his step at the moment.

“Yes, things are going pretty well. It’s early days yet, but we are getting a chance to lift a trophy on Sunday to give us all a further boost.

“To be honest, once I had a look at the panel of players that we have, I wanted them to win every competition they are entered this year. There certainly is talent there and there is a good buy-in to what we are doing. They are a really solid bunch of girls.”