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Derry trio exit after huge contribution

By Declan Bogue

Three of Derry's greatest hurling servants - brothers Liam Óg and Kevin Hinphey, along with Ruairi McCloskey - have announced their inter-county retirement.

The three will continue to play for their clubs, Dungiven and Banagher.

The Hinpheys have been a fixture of Derry hurling for decades, with their father, Kilkenny native Liam senior, featuring for and later managing the county in different spells.

Liam Óg also had a number of seasons with the county footballers, his final year in the panel when they last reached an Ulster final in 2011.

The Sport NI employee began hurling for the county when he was still a schoolboy in St Patrick's Maghera.

He revealed his retirement is down to changing circumstances, now that he is married with a daughter and cannot afford the time required for inter-county action, especially given the 180-minute round trip to work daily.

"I loved it, I really, really enjoyed my time playing and I would have liked to have played on. It's not because I don't want to play, I think I am perfectly able, but it's circumstance. There are other priorities," he said.

His elder brother Kevin is in the same situation. A coach with the Ulster Council which involves plenty of travel, he is 33 now and married with two children.

Asked for the highlights of his career, Liam Óg replied: "I am not sure I have too many highlights to be honest, it was unfortunate that there wasn't more silverware, considering the players I played alongside we might have got a bit more success, especially in the Christy Ring.

"We sort of left a few behind us with some bad results, which was maybe a regret. We never won one, got to the final last year and that was the closest we came. We got to a load of semi-finals, we had a few bad results against teams we should have been beating.

"If there are highlights, it's the boys that you met and the whole experience of it all.

"But I wouldn't have changed it. There are huge changes from when I started, up until the present day, but that's the way things go.

"I don't want to use the word professional, but the set-ups in terms of strength and conditioning and things like that, it wouldn't have been heard of really around Derry panels when I was starting up."

The two brothers were the subject of a Belfast Telegraph feature in 2012 when they both played a Christy Ring Cup tie in Celtic Park against Kildare the day after Kevin was married, with Liam Óg best man.

Reflecting on that fanaticism for the game now, Kevin said: "I definitely wouldn't describe myself as fanatical anyway! The game was on the next day, it was in Celtic Park and where I was getting married was Burt, only two minutes away from the pitch.

"It wasn't a big deal for me to play the next day, we hadn't planned much the next day and we were heading on the Honeymoon on the Sunday, so it would have felt strange to head past the game and go home for no apparent reason. It made more sense to play the game, for me anyway."

Derry are in Division 2A of the National Hurling League this year and face away ties to Kildare, Carlow and Westmeath.

Paying tribute to the service of the trio, Derry senior hurling manager Tom McLean said: "I would like to wish the three lads well in their retirement from inter-county hurling. They have been a pleasure to work with at all times.

"These men have given great service to Derry hurling, from underage right through to all the years they played senior.

"They will be a big loss to the Derry hurling squad, but as time moves on priorities change, and these lads now have wives and young families who need their time. I would like to wish them and their families good health and happiness in the future, and also good luck with the rest of their hurling careers."

Antrim romped to a convincing 6-17 to 0-16 win over UUJ in the Conor McGurk Hurling Tournament at The Dub last night.

Ciaran Clarke (2), Eddie McCloskey (2), Sean McGrath and Chrissie Brogan landed goals for the Saffrons with CJ McGourty joining Clarke in leading the team's blitz of points. Antrim now face UCD in the Walsh Cup on Saturday - their third game in 10 days.

Belfast Telegraph


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