Derry will learn from brutal lessons: McIver
As a mood of cautious optimism envelopes most Ulster counties in advance of the Championship season, Derry manager Brian McIver sounded a warning to teams, including his own, who might be prepared to set the bar too high for themselves.
Since their savage mauling at the hands of Dublin in the Allianz League final, Derry have gone back to basics by tightening their defensive mechanism, working on aspects of their link play, improving discipline in the tackle and enhancing their work rate.
Having taken stock of his side's displays and factored in how other teams have fared recently, McIver's stark assessment of the pressures that the Championship can bring will strike a chord with every other Ulster team boss.
"There is no such thing in football as a quick fix. You just don't throw a switch and everything is perfect and suddenly you become champions. It takes an awful lot of work and effort," insists McIver.
The Derry boss, who is expected to tweak his side for the championship with Gareth McKinless, Ryan Bell, James Kielt, Aaron Delin and Sean Leo McGoldrick likely to come into contention for places, still views the competition as a learning process and believes that teams will really come under the microscope.
"When you look at things realistically, the day we played Dublin last month nine of our players were running out onto Croke Park from under the Hogan Stand for the first time. That's daunting in itself," points out McIver.
"We learned an awful lot that day. But what would the players have learned by sitting at home watching Chelsea facing Liverpool? The place to learn is on the field and I am sure that Ulster teams will be taking lessons."
McIver urges all Ulster counties to take on board the manner in which Dublin have progressed.
"Dublin were beaten by Tyrone in 2008 and were then beaten by Kerry in 2009 but they learned from these setbacks and went on to win the All-Ireland in 2011. They won it again last year and are now about to defend their title but at this point in time it's a level playing field," maintains McIver.
Along with Donegal, Monaghan and Tyrone, McIver's own side are among the frontrunners for the Ulster title but whereas the other three sides have sampled provincial success in recent years, Derry have to go back to 1998 for their last title coup.
And the articulate Derry boss does not necessarily subscribe to the theory that the Championship is "a world apart" from the league.
"I don't think the competitions are a world apart nowadays even though this is a popular theory. There is a co-relation between the league and championship now. Teams are preparing well and the closing stages of the league are played out at Championship intensity, there's no doubt about that," maintains McIver.
"When Dublin played us in the league final, they fielded their strongest team since last year's All-Ireland final and they played flat-out for the 70-odd minutes.
"I saw some of them commenting to each other afterwards and they were really pleased with their performance. There is a warning there for us all and we must heed it."