Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

O'Kane believes Derry's win over Dublin shows huge improvement

Top coach: Ger O'Kane hailed the influence of Oak Leafs boss Brian McIver

After all the drama, spills and thrills of Derry's win over National League and All-Ireland champions Dublin, the clean-up operation went into full drive straight away.

Granted, there was a measure of applause and drinking it in by the Derry faithful, but for the players it was just another step forward.

Ger O'Kane stood outside the dressing room chatting to reporters, occasionally supping something scientific-looking from a plastic cup. Behind him, the Dublin logistics team were loading their equipment van to the throat with white boards, fruit, jaffa cakes, cones and all the modern-day paraphernalia associated with the best-prepared team in the land.

Other teams are catching up though, according to O'Kane.

"Every team is big into sports science now and every team wears trackers and heart-rate monitors.

"I'm sure if you check ours from today it would be at our highest level all year, but it will have to get higher next week and the week after because we are getting close to the Championship as well and we are getting that bit fitter every week."

Beating Dublin by six points, with the TG4 cameras present to record every break of the ball, is the sort of thing that marks teams out as a threat.

O'Kane plays it down.

"I'm not taking away from what we did out there today but we are still wise to the fact, although they are the All-Ireland champions, they are short five or six players that played in their starting team last year.

"Now, Dublin have a serious squad of players, so that is not to belittle anybody from 16 to 30 on their team because they are all nearly as good as each other.

"We'll take a fair bit of confidence away from this, not just the fact that we won, but the fact we proved we can work hard for 70 minutes."

The herculean performance of man of the match Mark Lynch (below), with his contribution of 1-8 also received deserved mention.

"He had an unreal game, every point was better than the last one. It wasn't as if he was kicking them whenever we were six or seven ahead.

"We were under pressure for 10, 15 minutes and we must have had seven or eight attacks that either dropped short or wide, so he was kicking them under real pressure, at times when we needed a score to keep that two, three, four point margin.

"He won a couple of kickouts, he ran at them and was relieving pressure there as well. It is credit to the work he has put in. You get those days and if we get another one from him the next week we'll be happy."

There is a new feel to this Derry squad, although the scarring of past defeats is still very visible. You don't have to look far to find evidence of that.

"We have a group that ranges from 19 to Fergal (Doherty) at 32," explained O'Kane.

"There is nobody between myself and Fergal, 29 to 32, so we have a pretty young squad."

He continued: "I was chatting to someone during the week. I have been beaten in five Ulster semi-finals, five years in a row by five different teams. So we have tried to wipe the slate clean under Brian (McIver).

"Brian is picking boys on merit now, which means boys are pushing on in training and boys are happy to work hard."

He concluded: "And to be honest, you enjoy it far more the harder you work. Boys will get more enjoyment out of winning out there today, not the fact it was Dublin, but the fact they had to work hard for it as opposed to, we beat Westmeath by 13-14, and took our foot off the gas as well.

"You get far more enjoyment out of working hard."

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