Luck not with Rogan as he loses 13 men
When Derry hurling manager Ger Rogan sat down to take stock of his playing resources for the new season he suddenly found himself confronted by a chilling statistic.
No fewer than 13 players from the side that contested last year's Ulster final against Antrim are now unavailable to him leaving the former Saffrons' ace with the unenviable task of re-building his team virtually from scratch.
It was not quite what the normally ebullient Rogan had planned for as he contemplated a 2013 campaign that will see the Oak Leaf side do battle in what he himself describes as a "ferociously competitive" Division 2A prior to confronting Wicklow in the Christy Ring Cup and then facing either Armagh or Down in the Ulster championship semi-final.
Emigration, injuries and retirements contribute in the main to the catalogue of Derry defections but Rogan, despite the intimidating hand which he has been dealt, remains philosophical.
"A lot of the lads have had to go to England and beyond to find work because of the recession and you can't blame them for that," said Rogan.
"They have to earn their livelihood and that comes before any commitment to hurling.
"But we have got on with building up the team again and I am quite happy with the new players who have been brought in. There is a freshness and enthusiasm about the squad that excites me and even though we had to go back to the drawing board in a big way, I am really looking forward to the start of the league on Sunday."
Derry will host Wicklow in a Celtic Park opener that Rogan feels will give him an insight into the overall strength of his side.
When Ulster met Munster in the inter-provincial semi-final on Sunday, no fewer than five Derry players were in the team – brothers Liam and Kevin Hinphey, Oisin McCloskey, Michael Warnock and Alan Grant.
"It was very encouraging to see these boys get called up by Ulster and I suppose the fact that Derry players constituted one-third of the starting team reflects the quality of the players we have," said Rogan.
Brendan Rogers, Paul Cleary, and Diarmuid Shields are among the new kids on the block who are preparing to step up to the mark in the Allianz League.
"This is going to be a tough campaign for us because we will be coming up against teams like Laois and Westmeath who play in the All-Ireland Championship proper and have lots of experienced players in their ranks," said the Derry manager.
"Sometimes hurlers can be the poor relations in certain counties but I think that this Derry side will gain their own level of credibility. They are very committed and are keen to prove themselves.
"I think that the more established players will be able to give a lead and if we could get a win against Wicklow this weekend I feel that this would provide a catalyst for the remainder of the league. These boys will not be overawed by the challenge."