Following their one point defeat to Wicklow, Derry get a second chance to clinch their place in the Division 3A final when they take on London in their final group game on Sunday at Banagher (throw-in 1.00pm.)
Derry are two points ahead of London, so a draw or victory will take them into the final against Wicklow. With the Oak Leafers having a 14+ scoring difference and London 11+, the exiles will have to defeat Derry by more than two points if they are to leap-frog Ger Rogan’s men and stake a final place.
“We were very unlucky against Wicklow in the last game,” explained Derry management member Sean McCloskey
“We thought we’d gained a draw and a place in the final but six minutes extra time were played and they score the winning point. I would not fear them if we reached the league final against them.
“We will not be underestimating London though. They beat us last year in the championship and have been doing well in the league this year, only losing narrowly to Wicklow. We had a stronger playing panel last year in that game but the players have shown great commitment this year
“We could be without Paddy McCloskey with a groin strain and with a limited playing panel the absence of Paddy would be a big blow.”
London have beaten Meath and Armagh but have lost to Kildare and Wicklow, they are a team that can be more than a bit unpredictable. Last year in the league they lost at home to Derry by a 21 point margin but in the Ulster championship they reversed that defeat at Casement Park.
While Ger Rogan has effectively rebuilt a Derry team with only a handful of last year’s squad available to him, London will always have trouble getting a settled team. One player who has remained permanent is veteran full forward Martin Finn, the Cork born hurler has had the distinction of playing in Ireland, Australia and England. He lines out at full forward and usually hits at least 1-07 in every game. His joust with in-form Derry full back Conor Quinn will be the feature of the game.
While Derry have been scoring freely, they have also been conceding quite a number of scores. London showed a lot of spirit coming from well behind to run Wicklow close. Derry are strong around the midfield triangle, Cormac McKenna and Mark Craig are sound half backs, both midfielders Oisin McCloskey and Kevin Hinphey are big and mobile while in attack, Paddy Henry and Ruairi Convery are in top form contributing the majority of the team’s total between them.
Darryl McDermott is an excellent keeper while Quinn is having a fine season at full back.
There is the possibility that Ruairi McCloskey an excellent defender who has missed all the games to date could be back after suffering a shoulder injury in a pre-season challenge game. He is very strong and good on the ball and would be a great asset to a fairly young defence.
Rogan has his team very fit for this time of the year and it could prove crucial. The ball looks to be very much in Derry’s court and a victory would further boost the confidence of this young team.