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Championship top target for O'Kane and his Derry boys

Ulster Minor hurling final

By John Campbell

When Derry won the Ulster Minor League hurling title earlier this year it represented a big step forward for the side. But such is the level of commitment of ambition within the county that manager Stephen O'Kane lost no time in highlighting where his side's real priority lay.

"The Ulster Championship is what it is all about as far as this Derry team is concerned," O'Kane insists. "These boys have been working hard and they are going to work even harder because we have our sights set on the provincial title."

O'Kane's players have certainly responded to his robust, uplifting declaration in the interim and now find themselves confronting perennial champions Antrim in the provincial decider tomorrow at Owenbeg (1.30).

And for O'Kane this is the match that really matters. In winning the league title (0-10 to 0-8) Derry were pushed to the pin of their collar by the young Saffrons and they know that even more demands will be made on them tomorrow.

Antrim manager Ciaran Kearney has a stronger team at his disposal, with a number of top-class young hurlers in the side including Christy McNaughton, Conor Patterson, Donal McKiernan and Keelan Molloy and Kearney believes that if his attack is plied with possession, then they can make life difficult for the Oak Leaf side's defence.

Derry are not short on individual talent either. Ciaran Steele, John Mullan, Odhran McKeever and Corey O'Reilly are among the players whom manager O'Kane and his assistant Emmett McKeever believe can set the tone for their team's display in what should be a lively encounter.

 

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