Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Derry going for the win: O'Kane

By John Campbell

Experienced defender Gerard O'Kane believes that Derry is in line for a dual football bonus.

Not only is the Glenullin clubman convinced the Oak Leaf county can overcome Westmeath on Sunday to clinch promotion to Division One but he is also optimistic that his alma mater, St Patrick's College Maghera, can be crowned All-Ireland Colleges champions on Saturday week.

O'Kane will again be a defensive anchor when Brian McIver's upbeat side take on already promoted Westmeath at Celtic Park in the knowledge that a draw will suffice to drive them into Division One.

But while he will settle for a draw "if I have to", O'Kane is focused on seeing the side pocket another two points and thus maintain an impressive record in the league.

"We have lost only once to date and we aim to keep it that way," insists O'Kane.

"We know that Westmeath, even though they are already assured of top division football next year, will want to keep their momentum going – but so too do we.

"A win would give us promotion, put us into the divisional final and give us a good boost going into the Ulster championship."

McIver may be without both Mark Lynch and Dermot McBride for Sunday's game but has also shown that he has adequate resources to prop up his defence in which O'Kane, Charlie Kielt and Chrissy McKaigue have been key figures to date.

Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan suggests that much more will be heard from his side, citing the fact that they are still a relatively young outfit.

This may be the case but it's old hands Denis Glennon and Dessie Dolan who could carry the greatest threat to Derry's chances of finishing their scheduled league programme on a high.

And while O'Kane has Westmeath in his sights, he is also keen to see St Patrick's College, Maghera strike a blow for Derry in the schools' sector by winning the Hogan Cup (All Ireland Colleges).

The team meet St Patrick's CS Navan in the decider at Croke Park on Saturday week and O'Kane is keeping his fingers crossed that the sustained improvement they have shown over the winter months will be taken to a new level at Headquarters.

When the Maghera school last won the Hogan Cup in 2013, O'Kane was a prominent member of the team and has since, of course, carved out a career as one of the best defenders in Ulster football.

The new breed of St Patrick's Maghera players certainly earn his approval for what they have achieved to date although it's the promise of more to come that excites him.

"In winning the MacRory Cup this Maghera side showed great qualities and I think they can get even better than the Navan school.

"This promises to be a cracking game between two sides which play open, attacking football and are unlikely to display any inhibitions on the day," states O'Kane, whose father Gerard snr is a former chairman of the Derry county board.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph