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Don't write off Derry threat

By Declan Bogue

Dublin manager Jim Gavin has sounded a note of caution for his players ahead of the meeting with Derry in the National League final on April 27.

After two richly-entertaining league semi-finals on Sunday, Gavin reflected on their earlier visit to Celtic Park, along with Derry's improbable win over Mayo.

"I'm sure they won't fear us now, particularly after what appears to have been a good performance," the Round Towers man began.

"They really went at us and caused us a lot of trouble early on, and throughout the game. We were very impressed with them. On the journey back down to Dublin, we talked a lot about them and how good they were. So I suppose it's no surprise that they got into the semi-finals, and it's a cracking win for them to beat Mayo."

Asked if that league result had much relevance to the final, Gavin swerved the issue, commenting: "We had a cracking game with them up in Celtic Park and got a really great reception from the county board and the supporters.

"It was an enjoyable experience, even though we were beaten. So, it's going to be a big game. We haven't obviously looked beyond Cork. They finished with 14 men; to beat Mayo with 14 men is a fair achievement. I'm sure it will be a good game."

And when Derry turn up to bridge a five-year gap back to their last league final at this venue, they will be facing an almost full-strength Dublin team.

Bernard Brogan, whose dedication to recovery brought compliments from Gavin on Sunday, along with his five points after being introduced as a replacement for Kevin McManamon after 44 minutes, is fit.

"He has trained very hard, off-site. The athletic team have done marvellous work with him and credit to the player himself, he has been very determined and has shown great focus over the last number of months since he has come back from his surgery. His form out there is a reflection of the hard work he has put in," said Gavin.

Perhaps fortunately for Derry, they were not there for the second-half demolition job the All-Ireland champions wreaked upon Cork.

Captain Mark Lynch had already dashed off to be with his wife, who was expecting their child, while the rest of the squad took in some of the first half, departing with a couple of minutes to go to half-time.

When they emerged from the changing room, TG4's choice of man of the match – Chrissy McKaigue – emerged with his face glowing from the day's exertions at full-back on Alan Freeman, whom he rendered scoreless from play.

Full-back is a lonely place to be on a pitch, especially a stage as exposed as Croke Park, yet he stuck to his task and passed it off as a daunting spot to spend an afternoon.

"It's not a nice place to be," said McKaigue.

"You don't really enjoy your football in there. It's more of a battle, of mind and body but that's just the way it is. Somebody has to do it."

In critiquing the overall performance of Derry's defence, which was short-handed after the dismissal of Fergal Doherty after 24 minutes, he said there was still room for improvement.

"We probably would have wanted to have conceded a bit less. Again I am being a bit picky, but it's give us belief.

"The fact we had 14 men, going down so early, will be a massive boost in terms of confidence. It gives us another game in Croke Park in a couple of weeks which is another boost."

With Derry under the cosh in the second half, their scores were inevitably the result of counter-attacks, strong runs forward leading to patience around the Mayo defensive cordon, before kicking some extraordinary points.

While on top of Freeman in the physical exchanges, McKaigue also latched onto a couple of balls and brought the ball out of defence, doing what his own judgement told him.

He commented: "It's just instinct. You see the grass ahead of you and you just go. Sean Leo (McGoldrick), Gerard (O'Kane) and those boys are making those runs all the time so it is great to give them a break every so often."

Overall, Derry look like a side that are enjoying their football immensely.

"Winning is everything, isn't it? That's what makes it enjoyable. There are a lot of boys on that bus now who have put in a lot of years' service and haven't got the recognition," McKaigue explained.

"Now we are getting the recognition and it would be great to see Mark Lynch and those boys get the recognition as being one of the best footballers in Ireland. Guys like Fergal Doherty, Patsy Bradley, Gerard O'Kane, because they are in the top bracket."

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