Harsh League lessons will boost Derry insists Lynch
Derry skipper Mark Lynch does not pull his punches in assessing his team's slide into Division Two of the Allianz League.
He believes, however, lessons have been absorbed - lessons that will stand them in good stead for Sunday's Ulster Championship quarter-final against Down.
"It was never our plan to get booted out of Division One, but then on the other hand the fact that we used something like 37 players over the course of the competition helped to give us an insight into our resources," said Lynch.
"And I like to think that more often than not we delivered performances even though results did not always go our way."
Derry had to wait until their last scheduled fixture against Cork before they tasted their only league victory - they had previously drawn with Tyrone and Dublin - and it's that win which has helped to fashion belief for the Ulster Championship.
"Maybe we did not always get the breaks, but you have to earn the breaks," said Lynch.
"To do that you just have to work that little bit harder and hope that those breaks which can prove so crucial come at the right time."
Having taken stock of the three matches played in the provincial series to date, Lynch is further convinced that it has become even more open and competitive.
"Look at the way teams prepare now, they leave simply nothing to chance," stresses Lynch.
"There is no doubt that on any given day in Ulster one team can overcome another no matter what the form book might indicate up until then.
"We like to think that we will be ready for Down, but you can be sure that they will feel they are in just the right frame of mind to be facing us."
Lynch is one of several experienced players in Brian McIver's side on whom a big burden of responsibility will rest on Sunday.
With Gerard O'Kane, Mark Craig, P J McCloskey, Patsy Bradley and perhaps Fergal Doherty missing, the remainder of the old guard will be expected to step up to the plate to set the tone for what Lynch hopes will be a winning display.
"The league is over and done with now. We have an opportunity to redeem ourselves in the Ulster Championship, we have home advantage, maybe a big crowd will get behind us and we want to make the most of this opportunity," states Lynch.
Last year Derry succumbed to Donegal in the first round before capitulating to underdogs Longford in the All-Ireland qualifiers - an all-too-brief championship stint that evoked sharp disappointment within the county.
"It is our aim to do much better this time round," vows Lynch.