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There are no winners with a club-only April: McEvoy

 

Hitting out: Derry boss John McEvoy believes changes must be made
Hitting out: Derry boss John McEvoy believes changes must be made

By Declan Bogue

Derry hurling boss John McEvoy has become the latest inter-county manager to join the chorus of disapproval for the looming club-only month.

McEvoy will hand back the Oak Leaf hurlers to their respective clubs for April, following their loss in the NHL Division 2B final to Wicklow on Sunday.

The problem is that it leaves Derry scant time to prepare for their Christy Ring Cup opener against Down in Ballycran on the weekend of May 11-12.

McEvoy also recommends that the GAA should strongly consider stripping back the pre-season provincial hurling tournaments - the Conor McGurk, Walsh and Kehoe Cups - to free up some time for club players and shorten the inter-county season.

"I'm not a fan of it but at the same time, what would the GAA do? I just think that the likes of the Walsh Cup in Leinster, the Kehoe Cup, the Conor McGurk Cup, they just have to get rid of them or push them right back," said McEvoy.

"Give (the) Fitzgibbon (Cup) its window, November/December, but you are over-taxing these boys come January. I just think these provincial competitions are fine to an extent but they are certainly not serving the clubs because they are being pushed out to April.

"And then the clubs are going to miss the players for two or three months when they go back to inter-county. But I am only a small part of it."

McEvoy now has to relinquish control of his players as they return to their respective clubs. After starting the job late, he hasn't had as much time to prepare as he might have liked but he is sanguine in that element.

"It's very hard to build, but what do you do? We just go with what we have and manage as best we can. I think there's a point coming where this is going to have to be hammered out because nobody is winning here," he added.

McEvoy holds out hope that he can use dual players Brendan Rogers and Brian Óg McGilligan, son of the 1993 All-Ireland winner Brian senior, who received a call-up to Damian McErlain's county football training panel recently.

McGilligan started Sunday's final but was taken off with a hamstring injury in the first half and replaced by Rogers, who was making his first county appearance in hurling in 2019 after a plantar fascia injury.

His move up to the forward ranks brought two points and it seemed before Wicklow's late goal that Rogers was going to drag Derry to victory on his back.

"He did well when he came in. He is a good hurler but we have a lot of good hurlers, and he's probably one of the best forwards Derry have," said McEvoy.

"He loves hurling and wants to play hurling so going forward he will be a good option for us."

On McGilligan, he added: "He did a lot of training this week so we thought he would suffer a bit coming into this weekend.

"He had a hamstring injury and he had to come off. We don't know if it is Grade One or Grade Two, but we would be hopeful enough that he would be back in four to five weeks."

Derry are one of the few counties that have dual players, though at this stage it appears unlikely that the McKaigue brothers, Chrissy and Karl, will hurl.

McEvoy said: "You have to manage it properly. Up until now they have been largely playing with the footballers and touching base with me, Johnny McGuirk and Brian Delargy.

"We are maybe going to have to sit down and manage it properly over the next seven weeks.

"We are going to give them a break at the end of April for about a week. But we will be playing matches in April, we have one or two challenge matches pencilled in already, but I think the depth of our work is getting them through.

"There will be recovery in April and we'll get them through to the first week in May and we can start playing May and June.

"We will have a challenge game against Antrim and then we take a rest for the club time and obviously we will be bringing them in for a little bit of recovery and doing a bit of work, maybe two matches."

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