Derry fired up to finish job after downing the big guns
Derry hurling manager Collie McGurk is looking at tonight's Ulster Under-21 Hurling final against Down at Corrigan Park (throw-in 7.30pm) as a stepping stone to draft more players onto his senior squad for 2018.
There are several players across the two panels, most notably Slaughtneil dual player Cormac O'Doherty, who weighed in with 2-5 against Antrim in the 2-11 to 3-6 win over the Saffrons last week.
After derailing Antrim's nine in a row bid, Derry now face Down, managed by Marty Mallon and Eoin Sheehan, who are riding high on confidence after beating neighbours Armagh 8-19 to 1-15 in the semi-final.
Cormac Coulter notched 3-8, with Daithi Sands also lethal in front of goal with 3-1.
Asked if it was an unexpected surprise to find themselves in a provincial final at this time of the year, McGurk quipped: "It's a little bonus if we can win it! It's not if we get beat."
Some figures in Antrim were not happy with the level of preparation going into the semi-final, but Derry can be said to have had an even more fractured build-up. However, the glut of recent club action in both codes has sharpened the players, McGurk believes.
"The players probably had too many games over the last 12 weeks. They have been playing league hurling and league football week in, week out, maybe three games a week," he explained.
"I suppose in terms of preparation, whilst the group may not have got together as often as we would have wanted, the players themselves had a lot of matches under the belt, and as a result their touch and that was probably on a par if not better than Antrim's as a result, on the night."
McGurk added: "But (as for) Corrigan Park, we need to just get over the line because we would like to qualify for the semi-final regardless of what has happened in the past or whatever.
"It would help get a positive spin on the year and help us get a couple of serious players for next year," he added.