Derry hurling boss Dominic McKinley says good start critical to Christy Ring hopes

Christy Ring Cup, Round One: Derry v Wicklow (Sunday, Celtic Park, 1pm)

By Michael Wilson
Friday, 8th April 2022, 7:51 pm
Updated Friday, 8th April 2022, 7:54 pm
Na Magha's Deaghlan Foley enjoyed a fine league campaign for Derry as they secured promotion back to Division 2A. (Photo: George Sweeney)

With promotion secured, Derry senior hurlers’ attentions turned to Championship this Sunday and a Christy Ring Cup opener against Wicklow.

The Oak Leafers will be strong favourites to get off to a winning start given their 100 per cent league campaign which included a 0-12 to 2-24 victory over the Garden County in Aughrim back in February. Indeed, Wicklow failed to register a single victory during their Division 2B campaign and only avoided the drop courtesy of a 0-16 to 0-15 victory over Mayo in the relegation play-off.

Despite the counties’ contrasting league fortunes, joint Derry manager Dominic McKinley is taking nothing for granted and says it’s critical Derry get off to a good start in the league from which the top two teams qualify for the final.

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“It is crucial you get off to a good start. We’ll probably be favourites given our league campaign and the league result but that’s not how sport works unfortunately,” explained McKinley, Unless your players are out with a good attitude and ready for the battle you never know how a game would go.

“We’d be hopeful that if we play the way we can we could get another result behind us to start us off on a good footing and set us up for the rest of the campaign but I can’t stress enough how important that good start is, it’s serious.”

The former Antrim boss says he was delighted for his players to finally get promotion secured and believes that return to Division 2A will take pressure off Derry.

“It was important for the players to get promotion sorted,” he explained, “It was a bit of added pressure and you could see it in our game at times. They have that ‘monkey’ off their backs now but everything is about consistency.

“We want to consistently get on top of these teams and be able to beat them so that we know we are good enough to go up there and stay up there. To date we have done that but now we have to start the whole cycle over again.

“It will be a very busy period though. Injuries is key and looking after players. If we can avoid injuries, then we have a good shout in this competition as well.”

Derry will welcome back Richie Mullan from injury but Sunday comes too quick for Eamon McGill with the Derry management team unwilling to risk any player over a schedule which includes only one free weekend over its six week run

“It’s a tough schedule but if we can polish up on one or two things then we should be in with a good shout. Richie Mullan is near enough there so we are hopeful on him. Eamon McGill is still not quite there and we can’t risk anyone because it would leave them out for the whole campaign.

“With the way the competitions run, we will rely on the advice of our physios and strength and conditioning coaches. We can’t afford to risk any players given how quickly the games come at you. There’s no point talking about targets because the first thing you have to do is to get into the final so we have to make sure we are in the top two before we can think about anything else and that means getting off to a good start. Even one bad day can bring added pressure on yourself so hopefully we can get off to a good start on Sunday.”

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Promotion will be major Christy Ring Cup boost, claims Derry hurling manager Dom...