Derry boss McCloskey relishing underdog role against Dubs

DERRY have made just one change from the team which defeated Antrim in the Ulster final for Saturday night’s Erin All-Ireland Under-21 hurling championship semi-final against Dublin in Newry (6pm).

Cormac McKenna comes in for Michael Kilpatrick at left-half back on a team that includes eight seniors, for what team coach Sean McCloskey says is going to be a very difficult game.

“Apart from ourselves, no one gave us a chance of beating Antrim in the Ulster final. They had done very well at minor level over the last two years, running Limerick and Galway very close, and they were the fancied side,” said McCloskey.

“However we felt that if we didn’t concede any goals early in the game, we were in with a chance, and that’s how it worked out. Antrim managed to get one very late in the game but we had the bit between our teeth and were not going to be beaten.

“It was a massive fillip for the game in a county where hurling is well down the pecking order. Dual involvement hasn’t helped, with players opting for the big ball game over the small ball. For instance Mark Lynch who played with the county seniors last Sunday against Dublin, is a very good hurler and would be on our team if he gave the commitment.

“We had very little preparatory work done going into the Ulster final, and only that 12 of the squad were in training with the senior hurlers, we could have been in serious trouble. The senior training was a godsend, and it showed in the way we played in that final.

“Since then we’ve had to go our own way and with club championship matches impinging on our training, it has not been easy getting ready for this game against Dublin. Three players were involved on Monday night with their clubs and that is not the way for a county team to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final.

“We’ll have no fear of Dublin, even though they looked very good in seeing off Offaly in the Leinster final. They’ll be clear favourites but if, like in the Ulster final, we don’t concede any early goals, we’ll be in with a great chance.”

As has been said by most coaches of Northern hurling teams, the lack of quality games has been a huge drawback to the development of the game, and Derry suffer in that regard.

“If we want a quality challenge game we have to travel anything up to 150 miles. That means an overnight and players are not always prepared to give their time for those kind of matches.

“Dublin on the other hand are within a 50-mile radius of the traditional hurling counties and it far easier for them. There has been a lot of talk about the resurgence of Dublin hurling. They have the population and the clubs. There are only six senior and one junior clubs in Derry, so you can see the imbalance there is between the two counties.

“Having said that, there is a lot of work being done on the ground for the game in Derry. We’ll go into the game confident we can get a result. Dublin may, like Waterford did last Sunday against Limerick, underestimate us. If they do it could be very costly for them.”

There are two sets of brothers on the team, Ruairí and Oisin McCloskey, Ben and Sam Dodds.

Meanwhile Alan Cronin and Sean O’Brien are included among the substitutes with the Cork senior footballers for Sunday’ All-Ireland semi-final against Meath.

DERRY (U-21 HC v Dublin): Daryl McDermott; Stephen Henry, Ruairí McCloskey (capt.), Sean McNicholl; Conor McKinney, Mark Crague, Cormac McKenna; Ben Dodds, Niall Holley; Paddy Henry, Oisin McCloskey, Garret O’Kane; Sam Dodds, Kevin O’Neill, Sean Leo McGoldrick.

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