Derry hurling boss McKinley hopeful ahead of Offaly clash in Ring Final
Christy Ring Cup semi-final: Derry 0-28 Sligo 2-17
Derry manager Dominic McKinley believes that while his side may well go into this weekend's Christy Ring Cup final as underdogs to fancied Offaly, his Derry side are not just going to make up the numbers.
McKinley, speaking soon after Derry dug deep to defeat Sligo in Saturday's tightly contested semi-final, spoke of his iron clad belief in the quality of his players.
"We're trying to build something here," he said. "We're trying to raise expectations. I want teams to start talking about our players, about Derry players. We have some of the best players in Ireland not just in Ulster when they perform to their highest level. And now they're going to get a chance to go to Croke Park."
Derry progressed headquarters and into their second ever Christy Ring Cup final with a five point win over Sligo at sun-baked Owenbeg.
Captain Cormac O'Doherty top scored with twelve points for the winners, with Joe McHugh and Gerard O'Kelly Lynch both hitting goals in a losing cause for Sligo.
The Oakleafers were the better side in the opening half at Owenbeg and led 0-16 to 1-7 at the break. Indeed, had it not been for umpteen wides Derry should really have been home and hosed.
However, while the skipper shouldered the lion's share of the scores, he was amply assisted by wide canopy of other scorers. Gerald Bradley, the underrated Slaughtneil ace was outstanding and nailed five points from play. His clubmate Se McGuigan bagged a hat-trick with Brian Cassidy,
Richie Mullan, Eoghan Cassidy, Mark McGuigan and Deaghlan Foley all weighing in with vital scores to keep well-conditioned Sligo at arm's length. Impact sub Odhran McKeever, following on from his man of the match form in Derry's win over Wicklow, scored a late brace and put his body on the line as Derry refused to wilt in the white hot heat that is championship hurling.
But the home side were forced to dig deep in the second half as they withstood a highly impressive Sligo fightback that ultimately fell just short.
"We started very well and had chances to make the gap a lot wider," admitted McKinley. "And we're disappointed in our shooting.
Then Sligo came into it particularly in the second half. They opened us up a lot. They were running at us and we rode our luck a few times. But overall I felt we never looked like losing the game."
The talismanic Sean Cassidy worked tirelessly to curb Sligo's main man O'Kelly Lynch, with Meehaul McGrath, John Mullan and Brian McGilligan all putting shoulders to the wheel in that second half defensive effort that sealed the deal for Derry.
The win, in breathless sun sapping conditions, sets the Oakleafers up with only hot favourite's Offaly standing between them and their inaugural Christy Ring Cup.
"It's going to be a tough one and these conditions are going to take a lot out of the players today. A lot of people are expecting Offaly back at the top table, but we're all looking back there. We'll not be reading the script anyway. We'll get back in on Tuesday night at training, analyse the game and set ourselves up to play Offaly next weekend.
"We'll probably do very little at Tuesday's session and do a bit of stick work on Thursday. These players are all well established players and come from good clubs and they know how to deal with this. Many of them have played in Croke Park before and that might be a wee benefit to us. It's our national stadium; we're going there so let's enjoy it. But, more importantly, we want to perform."
Scorers- Derry: C O'Doherty 0-12 (8 fs), G Bradley 0-5, S McGuigan 0-3, Brian Cassidy and O McKeever 0-2 each, R Mullan, E Cassidy, M McGuigan, D Foley 0-1 each
Sligo: G O'Kelly-Lynch 1-6 (5 fs), J McHugh 1-4, C Hanniffy 0-2, T Cawley, A Kilcullen, E Comerford, L O'Kelly-Lynch 0-1 each.
Derry: O O'Doherty, C McAllister, S Cassidy, M McGrath, J Mullan, B McGilligan, R Mullan, E Cassidy, C O'Doherty, M McGuigan, G Bradley, D McCloskey, D Foley, Se McGuigan, B Cassidy
Subs: O McKeever for C McAllister (24), P Nelis for E Cassidy (63), S Cassidy for D Foley (69)
Sligo: S Fleming, K O'Kennedy, N Feehily, N Kilcullen, K Banks, R McHugh, G Connolly, M Hanniffy, T O'Kelly, C Hanniffy, J McHugh, F Cawley, Tomas Cawley, G O'Kelly-Lynch, A Kilcullen
Subs: E Comerford for G Connolly (HT), L O'Kelly-Lynch for T Cawley (70)
Ref.: Kevin Brady (Louth)