Derry hurlers aiming to lift league title on home soil against Tyrone

Tyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar. Photo: George SweeneyTyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar. Photo: George Sweeney
Tyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar. Photo: George Sweeney
​Senior hurling manager Johnny McGarvey has been clear from the outset: he wants Derry heading into the Christy Ring Cup as Division 2B champions, and he's hoping Oak Leaf fans will turn out in numbers to help it happen against Tyrone in Owenbeg on Saturday (5.30pm).

McGarvey's men have been the dominant force in 2B this season, only a surprise draw in Aughrim against Wicklow denying them a 100 per cent record from their five games. That run started with an impressive 10 point victory over Tyrone in Celtic Park in February and now McGarvey is eager to finish the job and carry that winning mentality into the championship.

"We're exactly where we wanted to be, and we're probably in the position we wanted to be in, in terms of how we're playing and what way we're going," explained the Derry manager.

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“I think there'll be quite a few players on our panel who have never won anything, at club or county level. You know, most of our lads who are there now, the vast majority wouldn't have been involved when Derry won 2B a couple of years ago, and I suppose with Slaughtneil so dominant in the club scene, a lot of them won't have won anything at senior level.

"So it's important to try and get that winning mentality. It's very important, in terms of momentum, now going into the Christy Ring."

McGarvey, who said he cannot understand recent criticism of the football and hurling league finals, is hoping home advantage will allow the Oak Leaf hurling community to come out in force and make the final an occasion to remember for players and supporters alike.

“I'm a fan of the finals," added the Lavey native, "When you consider how little competitions there are, getting a chance to go and win something is nice. I like the idea of the league final and a one-off day, the top two teams going and playing. I don’t really see any real great debate for change in it to be totally honest.

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“I don't really see the argument for not having league finals. I mean, nothing prepares you for championship like more matches. Anybody that's in the league finals, they are going to get a real good game.

"In all the finals, in all the codes, you'd expect there to be real good matches and you have a couple of weeks to prepare then. I don't really see the need for three and four weeks of preparation going into a championship instead of playing a game. I like the league finals and I'm delighted to be in it.

"Hopefully we'll see a big crowd come out to get behind the boys and create a good atmosphere. It's nice having a national final at home and it would be great to see people turn out for it."

Tyrone, who finished third in the table, qualified for the final via a semi-final victory over second placed Donegal and, despite that opening day win, McGarvey is expecting a stern test from a Red Hand team with a point to prove.

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“It'd be lovely to win, but, look, it's a one-off game. Tyrone will come, with plenty of fire in the bellies, trying to turn us over and we'll have to match it. If we play well, if we play at the standards that we've set for ourselves, then I expect us to.

"We said we'd concentrate on the league, we'd concentrate on getting promoted. If we made the league final, that was our focus. Yes, the Christy Ring's sitting there in the background and come Monday morning, everything will be focused towards going to Wicklow on April 14th. But I mean, up until this league final's over, really, there's no chat about Christy Ring or Championship or anything else. It's just total focus now on winning this one-off game.”

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