Derry's Collie McGurk rejects cotton wool approach ahead of Cats clash
Despite their impressive win over Down, which represented Derry's sixth title at the Ulster Under-21 hurling Championship, manager Collie McGurk insists he will not be wrapping his players in cotton wool as they target an All-Ireland final.
Played at Corrigan Park on Wednesday evening, Derry were never in bother as they bridged a nine-year gap back to their last title, once they got over the early concession of 1-2 in the first five minutes of the contest.
By the end, their greater fitness and stickwork left them 3-17 to 1-9 better off than the Ardsmen.
Backboned by 10 of the Slaughtneil panel that were in action in February's All-Ireland semi-final against eventual champions Cuala, Collie McGurk's lads now look towards an All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny on August 19th.
Asked if he will be ring-fencing his players, McGurk quipped: "Well, the clubs own the players. Clubs give you the players in the first place.
"My opinion is that we will have to work around them. We will just try and manage it as best we can."
"The physical shape the players are in, is second to none," he added. "It's beyond question, they are really, really fit. And they are playing that many matches.
"Like, Brian Cody sends his Kilkenny team off after winning an All-Ireland semi to go and play for their clubs for two weeks. If it works for him, why would it not work for a county like Derry?"
The panel and management went back to Dungiven, to the home club of captain Ciaran Steele to toast their achievement. That is, all except the Slaughtneil men who were preparing for the trip to Glenullin for Thursday night's football league fixture.
"Shane McGuigan was unreal and Paul McNeil, he was first class. Quiet, pacy, really, really good. Just shows boys up," enthused McGurk.
"I was trying to get him out for the senior team all year. He was away on holidays, Slaughtneil was involved in the 17th of March and that was them to the end of June. We had to give Cormac O'Doherty time to get over an injury and all that.
"It was a credit to them for playing for their county at that stage because they must have been scundered with it at that point. The run that they were on, the amount of games that they had played…"
Now the Lavey man, who played in a Fitzgibbon Cup final for Queen's and lost a total of five Ulster club finals, is preparing to emulate the Antrim team of 2013 who beat Wexford to reach an All-Ireland final.
The semi-finals are traditionally contested at Thurles, with Semple Stadium a place to aspire towards for hurlers. McGurk sees no need to issue a call to play it closer to home, having never got the opportunity to hurl there himself.
"I am going to go along with where the players want to play it. It's the home of hurling, and if players want to go to Thurles, that's where we will go!" he proclaimed.