Resilient Derry aim to master kingdom
Published 15/04/2008 | 08:07
Winning major titles doesn't come easy as Derry have quickly discovered.
Only last season they narrowly lost an All Ireland quarter-final to Dublin and now it's All Ireland champions Kerry who stand between them and the Allianz League crown.
And in qualifying for a shot at Kerry, who did they beat? None other than the defending league champions Donegal in Letterkenny.
Some previous Derry sides might have flinched at such a prospect, but this team is different, more resourceful, more resilient and seemingly blessed with a stronger bench.
Against Donegal they were quickly out of the blocks and were well on the way to victory when they led by seven points at half time.
Only briefly did Donegal threaten when Rory Kavanagh teamed up with Kevin Cassidy in the middle of the field, but the home side simply didn't have any scoring forwards, worthy of the name.
Kerry will be a different proposition and so too will Donegal in the Ulster championship on June 1 in Ballybofey, but for now the Oak Leaf men are entitled to reflect on a job well done.
Meanwhile, boss Mickey Harte's broad smile told its own story as Tyrone edged out Mayo by two points at Healy Park.
Brian McGuigan had come through his first start with the county in two years with flying colours. It was almost as if he had never been away.
"It was vintage McGuigan, in the middle of everything and in total control. He even brought off a great catch late in the game back in his own defence," he said.
"He's a class act and it's just brilliant to see him back.
"It's hard to believe that initially Brian had to recover from a broken leg which would have ended the career of a lesser man only to suffer a very serious eye injury while making his comeback with his club.
"It says volumes for him that he had the courage and resolve to come back after such an horrific injury. No one can really measure the value of the man. Only someone very special could battle back in the manner he has."
Armagh too had cause for celebration after their crushing victory over promotion chasing Dublin in Crossmaglen. It was just like old times with Steven McDonnell and Ronan Clarke back among the goals.
There was delight too for late call up Charlie Vernon. He never looked out of place and capped a memorable afternoon with a peach of a goal.
The home side were unrecognisable from the team that folded dramatically against Meath in Navan.
Captain Paul McGrane best summed up the mood in the Armagh dressing room.
"We're just relieved. We were beaten off the pitch against Meath and we knew had to go out and perform against Dublin," he said.
"Dublin got through for an early goal against us, but in the second half we got the goals at the right time. We were under no illusions. We knew it would be tough and we had to perform."