​Derry hurlers travel to Sligo one step from Christy Ring Cup final

Derry hurlers take on Sligo this weekend hoping to reach the Christy Ring Cup final. Photo: George SweeneyDerry hurlers take on Sligo this weekend hoping to reach the Christy Ring Cup final. Photo: George Sweeney
Derry hurlers take on Sligo this weekend hoping to reach the Christy Ring Cup final. Photo: George Sweeney
​Derry hurling manager Johnny McGarvey says he will be kept up date on events in Ruislip, London as his Oak Leafers travel to Markievicz Park, Sligo in search of the victory that should ensure a second successive Christy Ring Cup final appearance.

Saturday's final round of fixtures sees Derry, London and Kildare all in contention for Croke Park but so superior is the Lilywhites' score difference that even defeat in London is unlikely to halt their march to headquarters. That leaves Derry and London. If London fail to defeat the championship favourites Kildare, then victory over bottom of the table Sligo will see Derry through. If London and Derry both win, the second final spot will come down to score difference with London currently on plus 40 and Derry 26. Got it?

It sounds complicated but not so according to McGarvey who says his players will be fully focused on Sligo.

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"That situation doesn't change anything for us, we know we have to go and beat Sligo," explained the Derry manager, "It's more a case of making sure we are mentally right ourselves. Making sure we don't go and get ourselves in a situation that we don't need to be in.

"To be honestly, score difference is not something we are speaking about. We are making sure we are 100 per cent right for the game to try and put ourselves into a position to win the match and then, we'll try and push on if we can.

"If you go chasing a game early, sometimes a team with nothing to play for are the most dangerous type of team you can face. The shackles are off and they can enjoy their game but, look, we just need to make sure we're mentally at it and take it from there."

The Derry manager revealed, while it's not his priority, he will be kept updated on London's game in case the qualification scenario changes in real time.

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"We will be keeping a close eye on it," he admitted, "If score difference does look like coming into the equation then we need to know so we'll be keeping up to date with what's happening between London and Kildare.

"Look, Kildare players will be fighting for places in the Christy Ring final. Even if they do make a few changes you would still expect them to be very strong. Their score difference means whatever happens they'll be in the final and they won't want to go into the having been beaten.

"I'm sure even with their position they won't want to run any risk but the bottom line for us is, if we win our match then I think we will go to the final."

McGarvey will be without hamstring victim Mark Craig this weekend for a match Derry will be expected to win against a Sligo side missing the prolific Andrew Kilcullen this season and without a point after four Christy Ring group games. Last year the Oak Leafers laid down an impressive marker against the Yeats County with an impressive 4-27 to 2-13 victory in round two at Owenbeg but even if the omens are good, McGarvey knows his team have a job to do.

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"We won that match fairly handy last season and Sligo went well in all their other games, even when they played Meath. That match last season was an eye opener scoreline wise.

"Now, they haven't gone as well in this year's competition and they missed out on promotion (from Div 3A) there so their form is very hard to gauge. (Andrew) Kilcullen who accounted for a lot of their scores last season is away and he was a 12 or 13 point a game player for Sligo so he has undoubtedly been a loss.

"But look, plenty of teams have been in the situation where they've nothing to play for so they just go out and get at it. Next thing they meet a team just going through the motions and that team can be caught. We know all about it because we got caught down in Wicklow in the league this season and I don't think we will be getting caught like that again."