Derry won't be following the Croke Park script against Offaly says Dominic McKinley

Christy Ring Cup Semi-final: Derry 0-28, Sligo 2-17

Monday, 26th July 2021, 5:44 pm
Sligo players swarm around Derry’s Deaghlan Foley during last Saturday’s Christy Ring Cup semi-final at Owenbeg. (Photo: George Sweeney). DER2129GS - 080

Joint Derry Hurling manager Dominic McKinley says they have no intention of following the script when they travel to Croke Park on Sunday (1pm) to take on hot favourites Offaly in the Christy Ring Cup final.

Cormac O’Doherty’s 0-12 helped Derry to a deserved semi-final victory over Sligo at Owenbeg on Saturday and while McKinley knows his side will be written off against the former All Ireland winners, he described the final as another important step in Derry’s evolution.

“It’s going to be a tough one. A lot of people are expecting Offaly back at the top table, but we’re all looking back there,” revealed McKinley, “We’ll not be reading the script anyway. We’ll get back in on Tuesday night at training, and set ourselves up to play Offaly next weekend.”

Derry’s Meehaul McGrath challenged by Sligo’s Rory McHugh during Saturday afternoon’s game in Owenbeg.(Photo: George Sweeney). DER2129GS - 075

“These players are all well established players and come from good clubs and they know how to deal with this. Many of them have played in Croke Park before and that might be a wee benefit to us. It’s our national stadium; we’re going there so let’s enjoy it. But, more importantly, we want to perform.

“We trying to build something here,” he explained. “We’re trying to raise expectations. I want teams to start talking about our players, about Derry players. We have some of the best players in Ireland, not just in Ulster, when they perform to their highest level. And now they’re going to get a chance to go to Croke Park and express themselves as individuals.”

But if Derry are to win their inaugural Christy Ring Cup, they know they will need to improve on a workmanlike performance against Sligo. The Yeatsmen are a much improved team but this level of display is unlikely to trouble an Offaly team who made the decider thanks to 6-30 to 0-11 victory over Wicklow!

Sligo, with a few Galway connections in their team, were fast and fit. Up the centre of their attack Gerry O’Kelly-Lynch and Joe McHugh repeatedly tore a sluggish looking Derry defence wide open and it took goalie Oisin O’Doherty to be alert on several occasions to keep Sligo at arm’s length. His brother and captain, Cormac, was his usually accurate self, converting all 11 frees he took while, elsewhere, Gerald Bradley was outstanding and Se McGuigan and Meehaul McGrath on top of their game.

Sligo opened the scoring with a Thomas Cawley point but Derry equalised immediately. In the fourth minute Joe McHugh restored the visitors lead but not for long as Eoghan Cassidy and Se McGuigan put Derry ahead.

Sligo then had a brilliant move which ended with full forward O’Kelly-Lynch blasting to the net. This only acted as a wake up call for Derry who reeled off the next seven points. At the first water break.

Derry led by 0-9 to 1-2 and on the resumption O’Doherty converted a ’65 to put Derry five clear. Sligo ended a 15 minute scoring drought in the 22nd minute when Andrew Kilcullen scored and the teams continued their end to end play as Derry led by 0-17 to 1-7 at half-time.

Sub Odhran McKeever twice and O’Doherty pointed in the opening three minutes of the second half and with a nine point lead Derry looked to be running away with it but not so. A brilliant Sligo move in the 41st minute ended with a Joe McHugh goal before a brace of converted frees from O’Kelly-Lynch cut the Derry lead to five on the score of 0-20 to 2-9. In a game where

Derry shot 17 wides it took points from Brian Cassidy, O’Doherty and Gerald Bradley to settle the their nerves as they opened up an eight point lead.

Sligo looked to have more in their legs and after the second water break they cut deep into Derry’s once comfortable lead. With eight minutes to go they were just three behind but Bradley and O’Doherty eased the pressure to steer Derry into the final.

Derry scorers: Cormac O’Doherty 0-12 (11f), Gerald Bradley 0-5, Se McGuigan, Odhran McKeever and Brian Cassidy (0-2 each), John Mullan, Richie Mullan, Eoghan Cassidy, Deaglan Foley, Darragh McCloskey (0-1 each).

Sligo scorers: G. O’Kelly-Lynch 1-6 (5f), Joe McHugh (1-4), Conor Hannify (0-2), Rory McHugh, Liam O’Kelly-Lynch, Thomas Cawley, Eoin Commerford and Andrew Kilcullen (0-1) each.

Derry: Oisin O’Doherty, Conor McAllister, Sean Cassidy, Meehaul McGrath, John Mullan, Brian Og McGilligan, Richie Mullan, Eoghan Cassidy, Cormac O’Doherty, Mark McGuigan, Gerald Bradley, Darragh McCloskey, Deaglan Foley, Se McGuigan, Brian Cassidy. Subs Odhran McKeever, Padraig Nelis.

Sligo: Stephen Flemming, Kevin O’Kennedy, Niall Feehily, Niall Faherty, Niall Kilcullen, Kevin Banks, Rory McHugh, Gavin Connelly, Mark Hanniffy, Tony O’Kelly-Lynch, Conor Hanniffy, Joe McHugh, Finnian Cawley, Thomas Cawley, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, Andrew Kilcullen. Subs: Eoin Commerford, Liam O’Kelly-Lynch.

Referee: Kevin Brady(Louth)