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Derry's accidental goalkeeper out to silence Kerry's key man

 

By Declan Bogue

Meet Derry ace Oran Hartin, the accidental goalkeeper who will face one of the highest-profile attackers in Gaelic minor football history when he goes up against Kerry forward David Clifford in this Sunday's All-Ireland minor final.

The Limavady Wolfhounds man was always an outfield player - and still plays around the middle for his club - until an injury last year led him to try his luck in goal.

After impressing there, he was back-up goalkeeper to Ben McKinless - now Derry's senior goalkeeper - in the county minor squad of 2016.

"I just got into it by accident," he said at the recent press evening.

"I do a bit of both for the club. But within this set-up it's all in goal. I enjoy the nets.

"There's a lot to it. You have to be a bit vocal to keep house. And then it's as if you are in control of the team. You are the eyes of the whole team."

This Sunday is Oak Leaf manager Damien McErlain's final engagement with the minor level, where he has created a strong culture over the past three years, winning two Ulster titles, before assuming control of the seniors as they begin life in National League Division Three in 2018.

Known for his attention to detail, McErlain will be keen to blunt the threat of Kerry's special talent Clifford. He was the star of last year's minor team with an eye for goal - and he hit 1-10 in their All-Ireland semi-final win over Cavan.

Such was his performance for St Brendan's College Tralee in last year's Hogan Cup final - against some of this Derry minor side, who were playing for St Pat's Maghera - that the team mentors drew comparisons with the legendary Maurice Fitzgerald.

However, Hartin displayed the kind of cool demeanour that is required of goalkeepers when he said: "Hopefully the defenders are good enough to handle him! If that happens I won't have to do anything."

Having spent a year as understudy to McKinless, Hartin is now put through his paces by Barry Gillis, the former county goalkeeper who represented Derry for several years up until the end of the 2010 season.

Gillis will also form part of McErlain's senior squad, so Limavady man Hartin - who has completed his A Levels in Loreto Convent Coleraine and now attends Technical College in Derry City, where he is embarking upon a course of study in physiotherapy - is in good hands.

However, he maintains that there is no secret formula once they arrive at their training base in Owenbeg, just a mile outside Dungiven.

"I work on standard goalkeeper stuff," he said.

"We work on my diving, on catching and handling the ball. We do a lot on our footwork. Footwork is massive now.

"The kickout is the greatest thing now for goalkeepers."

Like other goalkeepers at county level, he has found himself consumed by the theory element of the role. Little wonder that he cites Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton when he talks about learning from others.

"You are thinking now when you are watching a game that once a score goes over or a team hits a wide, it's really exciting to see how the other team set up, how and what they do with their kickout," he said.

"I think I would admire Stephen Cluxton the most. His kickouts are unbelievable. Then you have David Clarke of Mayo, he is some shot stopper."

While he has not been needed to take a long-range free for Derry minors, he does it for his club regularly. He converts from a range of, "Something like 45, 50 yards on a good day. It's hard to have a bit of wind to help you out!"

He can recall just one horrific moment since he moved back into the nets, a '45' that dropped into his net. But he added: "You have to keep your head up and be confident. That's another important skill for goalkeepers, to be confident."

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