DERRY Hurling manager Ger Rogan said he will not lose any sleep if his side’s unlikely challenge at the top of the Division 2A table ultimately ends in failure.
Michael Wilson reports
Favourites for the drop before a ball had been struck, Rogan’s young squad has confounded pre-season predictions to pick up three points from their opening three games and put themselves in with a chance of a place in the League Final.
Last week’s emphatic victory over Down in Newry as well as an opening round draw in Wicklow in which they were only denied both points by a late penalty, highlights an improving Oak Leaf side but this weekend will be an acid test.
Carlow are the Division’s in-form team with three wins from three but despite being underdogs, the Derry manager is looking forward to the test in Dr. Cullen Park this Sunday (12.45 p.m.)
“We are looking forward to it,” declared Rogan, “It’s another game and when you get a couple of good results your confidence is up and you look forward to the next game. It can work for you, the games coming week after week, if you stay away from injuries and have the full panel to pick from. Carlow will be a big test, there’s no question about that but we’re looking forward to it.
“They are the form team but if you look back at how we have hurled - and it comes back to the youth - for us it’s about learning to be consistent over 70 minutes. We have lads who are drifting in and out of games but that’s just inexperience. That’s what they’re learning and if we can keep learning in every game, we should be looking forward to playing the likes of Carlow.”
The Antrim native said recent results had bred confidence but his priority remains the Ulster Championship
“The win last Sunday allows these lads to maybe play with a bit more freedom. Rightfully so, we were probably everyone’s favourites to be relegated but now that we have got those three points the lads can enjoy themselves. Sometimes if you’re under pressure and not enjoying it, you don’t hurl as well. When you are enjoying something you can open your shoulders and go.
“The way it has worked for us is, we pick the team on how the lads are performing in training and that can change from week to week. We made a conscious decision that if a player is playing well in training, we base our decision on that. You can’t look at last week’s game, that has gone. What we are doing this week is more important. We have no hesitation in changing things and that’s because of the confidence we have in the whole squad.
“If you look at the age of the team, we have so many young lads, you don’t want to be setting targets because they’re learning how to play at this level. You don’t want to put the expectation on their shoulders that they not only have to play at this level but that they have to achieve.
“If Sunday’s game puts us in a position to challenge going into the last game against Kerry, fantastic, but if it doesn’t we pick ourselves up and go again. Our whole thinking is always, take each league game as it comes and then prepare for the Championship. As far as we are concerned, once we get the league over, we go up another two gears for Championship hurling, that’s what it is all about,” he added.