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Committed Rogers relishes Donegal duel

By John Campbell

Published 25/06/2015

Hands on: Brendan Rogers has devoted himself to football
Hands on: Brendan Rogers has devoted himself to football

A player who has already sacrificed the opportunity to win two major hurling honours this year is poised to play in only his second Ulster senior football Championship tie on Saturday.

Up until earlier this year, Brendan Rogers was an ever-present in the Derry senior hurling side and had coveted Christy Ring and Ulster Championship gongs.

Derry duly reached the Ring decider only to lose to Kerry and will confront Down in the provincial semi-final on Sunday.

But when push came to shove, Rogers made his call - it was to Derry football boss Brian McIver that he pledged his loyalty.

And when the latter plunged the Slaughtneil defender in for his debut at full-back against Down at Celtic Park earlier this month, he more than vindicated the faith shown in him by helping to curb a Mourne attack that still carried a considerable threat as a pulsating encounter ebbed to a close with the Oak Leaf side coming out on top by the skin of their teeth at 0-12 to 0-11.

Now Rogers, the latest in a long line of Derry dual players, will go in against Donegal in Saturday's semi-final at Clones knowing that a third appearance in the county colours could well be in the provincial decider against Monaghan.

And if he takes a leaf from the litany of Derry players who have plundered honours in football and hurling, then 20-year-old Rogers could have much to celebrate as his career unfolds.

Kieran McKeever, Brian McGilligan, Liam Hinphey, Geoffrey McGonagle, Kevin Hinphey, Sean Martin Lockhart, Henry Downey, Seamus Downey, Tony Scullion and Barry McGoldrick are just some of the illustrious Derry players who have helped to project their county into the limelight in both codes.

On numerous occasions in the past the difficulties encountered by Derry players in serving two masters were well chronicled to such an extent that, because of the increased demands on county players nowadays, the dual player became an endangered species although not extinct as yet.

This was highlighted no later than last weekend when Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons was forced to leave the McGourty brothers, CJ and Kieran, along with Conor Burke out of his team that met Laois in the All-Ireland Qualifiers on Saturday after they had played in a club hurling relegation tie with St Gall's on the Friday night.

For Rogers, though, there is no going back - not this year at least. The die has been cast and as he ponders what he describes as a "massive job" against reigning Ulster champions Donegal on Saturday, he has no regrets about his decision that now sees him in the national spotlight given that he is likely to go head-to-head with opposition skipper Michael Murphy, the best player in the country by a distance on current form.

"I was delighted to get my chance against Down but they certainly put it up to us," pointed out Rogers. "We gave away a few sloppy frees and the whole thing was a great learning experience."

With competition for places in the Derry side razor-sharp, Rogers is taking nothing for granted.

"We are going to have to show a big improvement if we are to get past Donegal," insisted Rogers. "They have been a major force and we face a massive job."

Derry - Donegal

Ulster SFC semi-final: Clones, Sat, 7.00pm (Sky Sports)

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