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Hinphey targets more medals for Derry

By John Campbell

Liam Hinphey has captained Ulster in the inter-provincial senior hurling championship, gained a Nicky Rackard Cup medal with Derry and landed no fewer than six county hurling championship honours with his club Kevin Lynch’s (Dungiven).

Right now, however, this versatile sportsman is preparing to help the Oak Leaf county regain respectability in the football sphere.

Twenty-five-year-old Hinphey has been included in the panel for the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup in which Derry will face Down in their opening tie on Sunday at Celtic Park.

Hinphey, who is currently studying for a Masters Degree at UUJ, will embark on this mission burdened by a degree of apprehension.

A deep-seated groin problem restricted his involvement in both football and hurling to some extent in 2009, but Hinphey, who spent some time in Australia recently, is particularly keen to see Derry become a championship force.

“We under-performed last year when we lost in the Ulster Championship to Monaghan and then bowed out of the Qualifiers to Donegal,” he said.

“There is a feeling within the squad that we can do better, but to be fair our manager Damian Cassidy had to cope with an inordinate injury list in 2009.

“Hopefully, everyone will be stay fit this time round and for my own part I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have any reaction after games in relation to my own problem.”

It was after winning an Ulster Minor Championship medal with Derry some eight years ago that his proficiency in hurling came to the surface and since then Hinphey has become one of the outstanding dual code players in the province.

Indeed, many shrewd judges feel that if Hinphey had been born in his father’s native Kilkenny he could today be a member of Brian Cody’s all-conquering squad.

“Obviously I love hurling, but right now I am very committed to football,” he said.

“There is a strong desire within Derry to see the likes of Tyrone and Armagh challenged on the Ulster stage.

“It’s twelve years since the county last won the Ulster title, but with the experience we have in the squad and with an exciting batch of new players in there, we might just have the mix that could do the trick.”

Manager Cassidy will avail of the McKenna Cup to give every member of his 30-man squad game time and may then amend his resources for the National League.

Cassidy, aware of the suggestions that Derry peaked too early in each of the past two years when they reached the league final, insists that championship success is top priority.

“The importance of having a strong squad as opposed to a good starting fifteen cannot be over-emphasised,” said Cassidy.

“Between now and the end of January we will get a better idea of where we are at.”

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