When Derry lost to Donegal in last year’s Ulster final their manager John Brennan complained with considerable justification that a couple of dubious refereeing decisions had militated against his team’s chances of collecting their first provincial crown since 1998.
But when Jim McGuinness’ side repeated their victory over the Oak Leaf men in Saturday’s one-sided quarter-final, Brennan had no excuses to offer for what was a lamentable performance.
Now as he strives to restore morale, discover a fresh game plan and regain the faith of a disenchanted support, Brennan finds himself out on a limb.
On Saturday week he takes his team to face a Longford side in the first round of the qualifiers who won many admirers for the manner in which they overcame fancied Laois and then ran an experienced Wexford agonisingly close in the Leinster championship.
Before then, Brennan must face up to a heavy work-load on the training ground and much soul-searching off it in a bid to reclaim credibility for a team which, even at the best of times, is guaranteed nothing more than luke-warm support from within its own territory.
When Derry head to Pearse Park it certainly won’t be a case of the last person left behind having the task of turning out the light — there will be far too many willing hands available to ensure that the home lights stay burning brightly.
Yet this match against Glen Ryan’s revitalised outfit represents a major test of Brennan’s own motivational and tactical skills and what will be a forensic examination of his team’s mental fortitude.
And with confidence conspicuous by its absence and optimism non-existent this reflects the enormity of the task ahead.
“There’s a massive amount of work to be done and whether the players are there in Derry to do that, I don’t know. I haven’t been told of any better players for the panel we have assembled,” said Brennan pointedly.