Derry hurlers hoping to be competitive in Allianz Hurling League Division 2A

A delighted Cormac O'Doherty raises aloft the Allianz National League Division 2B hurling trophy having beaten Sligo on Saturday in Ederney. Pic by Mary K Burke
Shaun Casey

An opening-day clash with 2022 Joe McDonagh Cup finalists Kerry is a challenging start to life in inter-county management, but that’s the task ahead of new Derry hurling manager Johnny McGarvey.

McGarvey took over from Dominic McKinley and Cormac Donnelly at the start of January and pulling a panel together was top of the agenda.

“It’s very much just trying to establish a panel of lads that are committed to playing and want to play,” said McGarvey.

“That’s very much been my concentration, I think the panel is pretty much finalised with who we’ll have and who we won’t have. We have quite a few young lads and a couple of lads who are still under 20 and a couple that were under 20s last year.

“We’ve lost quite a few from last year for various reasons, boys that helped get the team promoted. I’ve spoken to most of the players that we wanted and those that wanted to commit are in, whoever didn’t want to, that’s fair enough there’s no harm done.”

Derry didn’t take part in Ulster’s pre-season competition, the McGurk Cup, so McGarvey has been relying on challenge games to get his side up to speed before the League.

“We had a couple of games just to see where we’re at before we go into a daunting enough campaign.

“A lot of the boys, I don’t think there were too many of them involved with the universities in the McGurk Cup, so a lot of them wouldn’t have played since their club championships finished. Maybe the Slaughtneil lads, it’s a wee bit longer for the rest, but it’s a fair wee while without a game,” added the Lavey native.

The Oak Leaf county earned promotion from Division 2B last season, winning all six of their outings, including the decider against Sligo. They face a number of difficult games in this year’s Division 2A, including fellow Ulstermen Down in round four, but all focus will be on the Kingdom this weekend.

“We’re under no illusions, our aim is to try and survive in the League and it’ll be very, very difficult, even given just the circumstances that we’re probably not as prepared as we’d like to be. But we’re there, we got promoted (last year) on merit and we’ll give it everything we have to try and survive.

“The Christy Ring champions Kildare are there, Offaly, the Christy Ring champions from the year before are there. Kerry will think of themselves as very unlucky that they didn’t win the Joe McDonagh last year.

“Down are in there, they’ve been mixing it with those teams for a long time and Carlow as well, it’s a difficult one but sure you’re better being there and trying to push yourself rather than not. For me, it’s very early days, I don’t know much, other than looking in from the outside, I don’t know a whole pile about those other teams.

“Most of them would be looking for promotion out of that League but for us it would be very much about trying to keep our place in it. We’ll concentrate on ourselves and make sure we’ve done everything that we can do and give it our best shot.”