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O’Kane fired up for glory

Gerard O’Kane recently spent three months in Australia - and reckons he’s reaping the benefits of this.

The 24-year-old Derry defender headed Down Under to re-charge his batteries following a busy year of studies and right now he’s at concert pitch as the Oak Leaf side prepare to take another step towards the possible retention of their National League title when they face Tyrone at Omagh on Saturday night.

When he was pitched into the Derry side as a substitute against Mayo in the opening round of the League, O’Kane thought it might be the start of his gradual reinstatement in the side.

But he found himself in the starting line-up for the games against Westmeath and Dublin before being consigned to the substitutes bench again for last Sunday’s clash with league leaders Galway.

However, when Derry’s defence showed sides of creaking in the first-half, manager Damian Cassidy once again summoned Gerard from the bench and his five-star second-half display had much to do with Derry collecting a hard-earned point.

“I was very pleased to be brought on and I was happy with the way things worked out. But now we face a very tough test against Tyrone and I have no doubt that our manager will want to have a look at a different formation. He has made it very clear that he is giving everyone a chance and we all accept that,” says O’kane.

Nowhere is the competition for places more keen than in the Derry rearguard.

“We have a number of players jostling for the positions but that has to be a good thibng,” says O’Kane, son of former Derry chairman Gerard O’Kane snr.

It was in 2007 that the younger O’Kane landed a Derry championship medal with Glenullin but now his ambitions are set rather higher.

“While it was great to share in Glenullin’s triumph , our first in over twenty years, it would be fantastic to see Derry get their hands on the Ulster Championship title again. We have had to watch as Armagh and Tyrone have dominated the provincial campaign and now we would like a slice of the action,” observes O’Kane.

Currently in his fifth year in the Oak Leaf squad, he is thought to be the only players in over fifty years who captained his county to an All Ireland Minor title before leading his college to Hogan Cup success the following year.

It was in 2002, the year that Armagh won the Sam Maguire Cup, that O’Kane led Derry to Minor glory and then a matter of months later he was taking delivery of the Hogan Cup on behalf of st Patrick’s College, Maghera.

Not since 1949 has a similar feat been achieved but O’Kane is now focussed on the future rather than on the past.

“We have to go forward. There is a great desire within this Derry side to do well. We are going in against a Tyrone side that, while maybe missing a few familiar faces, is still a very strong side. They will have huge backing from their followers in Omagh and we can’t afford to take our foot off the accelerator. There will be a fantasic atmosphere<” he insists.

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