Laois victory crucial as hurlers target league final

DERRY SENIOR hurling manager Ger Rogan has admitted this weekend’s National League meeting with Laois in Celtic Park (throw-in 1.00 p.m.) will determine his side’s hopes of reaching the Division 2A final.

Michael Wilson reports

Rogan should have a full panel to choose from against the team which is level with Derry on four points but lead the division on scoring difference from the Oak Leafers and second placed Westmeath, with Kerry also on four points in fourth. It makes for a fascinating finale as that quartet battle it out for a place in the decider.

“The games are coming thick and fast now but we are enjoying it,” explained Rogan, “We are not looking any further than Laois this weekend. We are 100 per cent focused on Laois and I believe this is a game we can win, I don’t see any reason why not.

“Sometimes with the young players we have it’s a case of them not being used to playing at this level but then, in games, you can almost see them realise they are as good as these teams they are playing against. When that happens they start to believe and you get the sort of hurling we have played in patches this season.

“Last season we wanted to consolidate our position in this division which we did quite comfortably but this year we wanted to push on. That was made all the more difficult by losing those 13 players, many of whom were experienced county hurlers, and we are chuffed to bits with how the season has gone so far. The young players who have come in have been superb.”

Last weekend’s thrilling three point victory over Kildare came courtesy of a much improved second half and a vital contribution from Na Magha’s Alan Grant whose four points late on proved crucial.

“We haven’t hurled for more than 35 minutes in any one league game this season. Even against Westmeath, that was a game we could have won because we had some good spells during the game.

“It has been great to see the impact the players have made coming off the bench as well. Last week everyone was pointing to Alan (Grant) and his four points late on but young Chrissy Spiers was superb after coming on, it is all these factors that help swing the game in your favour and that’s something we have seen in a couple of our games.

“When you talk about losing 13 players from last season, that is a panel ripped apart but these young players have stepped up. Players like Brendan Rodgers who has been superb, Niall Ferris, Paul Cleary, they are only out of minor and under 21 hurling but they have been superb. I always say to the players that if you believe in your own ability to compete then you can move forward. Last Saturday after the Kildare match you could feel the mood in the dressing room, it was excellent after a game in which we weren’t hurling that well but had dug deep, turned the game around and got a very good win in the end.”

Derry finish their campaign with a trip to Kerry on Easter Sunday and Rogan knows to maintain hope of reaching the final, Derry must win both matches.

“The permutations of this weekend’s fixtures mean they will probably define the division but you have to concentrate on the game in front of you and that’s Laois.

“We’ll be looking to win the game, make no mistake about it, but the positive thing about a division that is as tight as this one is that there is an honesty in the results. Even with Kildare not having won a game, they are playing for pride and will not want to go through the league without winning so no-one gets any easy games.”

“The table tells us that no other team has more points than we have with two games left which should give us the belief we need. I have every confidence in these players, probably more than they have in themselves, but we have played some very good hurling this season.”

Rogan said it was heartening to receive compliments from spectators after last week’s double header in Celtic Park.

“After the match last week, some of the football people who were at the game came up and congratulated me and admitted they had not been at a hurling game for a very long time but said they would be back.

“That tells me we are doing something right,” he concluded.