Derry pledge to grow stronger despite painful loss
Derry manager Brian McIver admits that both and he and his team have been left with much food for thought following yesterday's chastening experience at Croke Park – but not to the extent that they will be deflected from their goal of trying to win the Ulster championship title for the first time in 16 years.
The 3-19 to 1-10 pounding which the Oak Leaf side suffered at the hands of rampant Dublin in front of 38,841 fans at Croke Park was the heaviest defeat inflicted in a National League final since 1961 – and irony of ironies, it was Derry who were on the receiving end on that occasion too when Kerry had a 20-point winning margin.
McIver concedes that his team now face a huge test against Donegal when the Ulster series swings into action next month but he is confident that the players can put yesterday's setback firmly behind them.
"We might have been overawed by the occasion. You can't put wise heads on young shoulders and we will have learned from this game. If you make mistakes at this level you are going to get punished and that's what happened to us," admitted a clearly disappointed McIver.
His team had looked impressive in the league but yesterday their limitations were clinically exposed by a fired-up Dublin who hit the ground running and maintained their gallop right until the final whistle.
"They were like a juggernaut which was not going to be halted. We made the kind of errors that we have not been making all year and paid the penalty for that. I thought that we created goal chances and the fact that we did not take any of them did not help us so we have to be more clinical in our finishing," added McIver.
Dublin's pace and power in the first half helped them to carve out a significant advantage at half-time and McIver admitted that when Bernard Brogan scored their first goal in the early stages of the second-half, this cemented their authority.
"I thought that this was the score that really allowed them to push on. I thought the ball had hit the post but when the goal was given it made things an awful lot harder for us. Having missed goal chances ourselves, this added to our frustration. Dublin were able to bring on players that helped them to close out the game and there was not much we could do about that," said McIver.
The Derry boss used six substitutes but they were unable to plug the gaps that had opened, particularly in midfield.
"This was certainly a learning experience, especially for the younger players in our side and we would hope they might benefit from this in the long term," declared McIver.
Long-serving defender Gerard O'Kane conceded that after Derry had assured themselves of remaining in Division One they had attained their main goal but added that to have lost a league final in the manner of yesterday's capitulation was "extremely disappointing."
He said: "It was a big experience for all of us but we have to absorb the lessons and fix our minds on the Ulster Championship now. There's a month to go before we meet Donegal and we have work to do. The really disappointing thing is that we made the kind of mistakes that we have not been making this season to date."
O'Kane, who managed to take time out from his onerous defensive duties to assist his attack and actually snapped up two points even when under considerable pressure, is adamant that Derry will improve for the Ulster Championship.
"We know what we have to do. Our pride has been hurt and we know that the best response we can give is to beat Donegal next month if we can. That's a big ask in the wake of what happened yesterday but it's something we have to confront whether we like it or not. This was an extremely disappointing defeat no matter what way you look at it" sighed O'Kane.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin was at pains to play down his team's triumph suggesting that it was "just another match that has been won."
Yet in doing so, he indicated that his team could become even more powerful should several players who are currently feeling their way back to full fitness become available for the Leinster Championship.
"There are a number of players we would like to have back with us. Obviously we have players, too, with our Under-21 side who are preparing for next weekend's All-Ireland final against Roscommon and we will have them back in the fold too," revealed Gavin.
Dublin skipper Stephen Cluxton stressed that the players are now driving each other in a bid to complete the double double of league and All-Ireland Championship titles in successive years.
"It's very much a player-driven thing," said Cluxton. "The boys want to push each other on and I think that this was fully reflected in this win over Derry. That's the attitude that we want to take into the championship. It's great to win another league title but we have to push on from here."