Former Derry senior camogie manager Ciaran Cunningham. (Pic: Cathal McOscar)
Derry must begin the search for a new senior camogie manager after Ciaran Cunningham confirmed he is stepping down after two seasons and his second stint at the helm.
“That was my last day today with them,” he told the County Derry Post, before leaving an sound endorsement of the squad to anyone interested in taking over.
After losing heavily to Meath at the same stage last season, Derry were the puck of a ball from the All-Ireland semi-final one Sunday. And that was without the injured Karen Kielt and a number of experienced Swatragh players who were no longer of the panel.
“Genuinely...whoever comes in next year has a good group of girls,” Cunningham stressed. “They have to all stay in, that's the key to Derry pushing on. It can't go back to when there was 14, 13 and 12 at training.”
It was a statement that echoed the same rallying call after last season, urging everyone on the county to make it their priority to pull on the red and white jersey.
“They have to all buy in and if they do that, Derry will be successful. It is in Derry's court, it is up to them to what they do and it is up to the players if they want to stay.”
On Sunday's game, Cunningham said it was a 'massive understatement' when asked if it an opportunity left behind by the Oakleafers.
Meath dominated the early stages and the Derry boss spoke how his side couldn't get into their shape, but commended them for working their way to trail by just two points at half time
“At half-time I told them to go and play the camogie they'd been playing all year. I have to give it them, they worked their socks off. I thought we were the better team in the second-half. I am proud of them all for the effort they put in this year,” Cunningham stated.
It was Meath's strong opening 15 minutes that left Derry chasing the game and as they found themselves back in the game, they were never able to reel in their opponents.
“I genuinely believe if we had got level or a point in front, we'd have pushed on,” added Cunningham, who wasn't pleased with the performance of referee Barry Nea.
“I think he was very influential in the game and I don't think it was very good today and I have to say that...and I shouldn't really say that.
“It is not bitterness in defeat. Meath deserved the win, but when the referee has an influence it just sits bitter with me.”
At the start of last season, Derry had just 14 players when they faced Down in the opening game. It's something Cunningham said the squad can't return to after turning the corner and with just three months effort. He refers to Meath's recent All-Ireland intermediate title, their spell at senior level and how Derry have bridged the gap to that level.
“As of today, I'd like to say they will (have the desire) because they will have saw it as motivation that Derry is going in the right direction,” Cunningham added. “It is easier to stay with a team that is moving forward, rather than backwards.”
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