Derry corner-back Leigh Hawkins should be available for Sunday’s Ulster Senior Hurling Championship clash with Armagh after overcoming a health scare in midweek.
Initial reports had suggested the Na Magha corner-back had been ruled out but having trained on Tuesday and again last night, Hawkins surprise inclusion means Derry should be at full strength.
“There would be a doubt about Paddy Kelly, as there is about one or two other players but as I’ve said all year, that’s why you have a squad of players,” explained Rogan, “We have said all along that we trust the players in the squad. If we have an injury we deal with it. That’s what we’ll do before this game.”
Liam Og Hinphey and Ruairi Convery did not train with the squad last Saturday afternoon in O’Cahan Park, Dungiven but Rogan expects both players to be available. Paddy Henry was also unavailable but there are no injuries on that score and he will line out at the Athletic Grounds.
Armagh stepped down a grade to play in the Nicky Rackard Cup this season and they vindicated that decision when they had an emphatic 3-20 to 1-15 win over Louth in Croke Park last weekend to secure their second title in three years.
Declan Coulter with 2-02, Donal Carvill with 0-06 and Conor Corvan with 1-03, were the main scorers for Michael Johnston’s side, Ryan Gafney, Paul McCormick and Johnny Corvill each contributing 0-02 in a performance that will give them a lot of hope.
Last year Armagh put up a creditable display against Antrim before going down 2-20 to 2-12, Derry defeating Tyrone 2-13 to 0-06 before crashing out to Down in the semifinal.
“Yes, Armagh’s confidence will be high,” agreed Rogan, “They probably feel that it was the right thing to do to drop down to the Nicky Rackar But at the end of the day, Sunday’s game will be different from the one in Croke Park.
“We will not lose sight of the fact that this is the side that was beaten in the Ulster senior final last year. We’ll be regarded as underdogs!” he remarked with a smile.
He added, “I was with Armagh for three years. Maybe before that era Armagh players were not acting like county hurlers and thus were not treated like county players. But the Armagh County Board gave an undertaking that they would support hurling on the understanding that the players acted, trained and performed like county hurlers. The players responded to that and they are a great bunch of lads. I’m delighted with any success that they get.
“Behind the scenes there is a lot of hurling development going on in Armagh and the fruits of that can be seen in their results at all levels in recent years. Success though is not measured in one year but in pushing on and creating a conveyer belt of players through the grades. They seem to have been doing that as there is a lot of young lads coming through to senior level.”
When it was suggested that the Christy Ring Cup defeat by London must have dented the team’s confidence, the Derry manager said it would depend how you wanted to view the game.
“Was it a case of the glass half full or the glass half empty? I’m of the glass half full opinion,” added the Antrim native.
“The most disappointing aspect was that the players knew themselves that they were good enough to beat London. They probably felt that they had let themselves down in the first half but I thought they got their pride back in the second half. Probably what cost them the game in the last six or seven minutes was their decision making. At times they went for goals when they should have been popping the ball over the bar.
“People can say that we were bitterly disappointed but the reaction of the players told the real tale. We were back in training on the Wednesday night and there were 29 players there. The players did not have to say anything. That was a statement on its own.”
When asked if there was the belief in the squad that they could beat Armagh and also that the return of Kevin Hinphey would be a big boost Rogan was emphatic.
“Yeah, there is that belief and the availability of the Derry captain would be a boost. He’s a quality player. The return of Conor Quinn after a hand injury is also a boost. He was a big loss the last day. But when players are absent you have to get on with it and sometimes you find the quality of other players in adversity.”
“There is no reason why we should not head to Armagh with the firm belief that we canget into a semi f-inal against Down, not just hoping but believing that we can win the game. Armagh will think they are above Derry in the pecking orde but we have been playing in a higher league this year than Armagh. I believe that playing at that level will sustain us. The competition was ferocious. We are quite happy where we’re at. We set our stall out to stay in this division and we achieved that. We have retained our status and we did it quite well.”