LADY luck seems to have deserted the Derry camogs when it matters most, but their joint-manager John O’Dwyer hasn’t given up the possibility a fruitful championship campaign.
Their first-round defeat to Laois means that they really need to get a positive result against Carlow if they’re to have any hope of progressing to the knockout rounds, but their odds of doing so have been drastically lower as a result of player absences.
O’Dwyer takes up the story, confirming for instance that Slaughtneil star Shannon Graham, a native of Antrim, has ruled herself out after making her Derry debut only a month ago in their Ulster Championship semi-final defeat to Down.
“We still have a nice enough wee squad but we’re missing a lot of girls, we’re not as strong as we could be.
“We’ve lost Teresa Bradley, she’s done her cruciate while Shannon Graham has left the panel for work commitments.
“We’ve lost Eilis Cassidy as well – she’s away travelling for a year – and we’ve lost Lauren McKenna who’s one of our midfielders. We were hoping to have her ready but she’s had to quit everything because of her bad knees.
“Karen Kielt hasn’t made it back to fitness yet, and a few other girls have left too so we’re down about eight or nine players and that’s put us under a lot of pressure.
“We’re still strong but it’s put us right in the pack. We have to win this game against Carlow – otherwise we can forget about it.”
Derry coughed up an early goal against Laois at Swatragh on Saturday and try as they might, they could never wrestle back control of the encounter. O’Dwyer says that the Leinster outfit are a strong team but recognises that this was one of their more winnable matches with games against Down and Tipperary to come.
“We coughed up a goal after the first five minutes, we got level three or four times in the second-half but we couldn’t get on top of them. It was a disappointing result, it was a game we’d targeted for getting a win.
“They’re physically strong, they work hard and we found that against them last year too when we drew against them in the championship. We gave away two handy goals against them last year, but they’re physically very strong.”
By contrast, Carlow will be full of confidence after their 2-11 to 0-11 win over Wexford at the weekend, but O’Dwyer is still hopeful that Derry can get up and running at the second task of asking.
“We really should be beating them, but I’m five or six first teamers down and any team would struggle with that. We did well enough against Laois considering the girls we were missing.
“We’ve no choice now, we have to get on with it. We’d some squad in January and now come the championship we don’t have them, that’s just the way it works. You can only play the cards you’ve been dealt.
“We played them in our last game last year, we beat them by eight points but the first 40 minutes were nip and tuck. They’re a solid enough team, they’re bound to be on a high as they got a win in their first game, so we have to try to regroup.”