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Ulster Championship: Clones a chanceto prove ourselves, says Derry boss Brennan

By John Campbell

Twice in the last four years Derry have reached the semi-finals of the Ulster senior football championship only to find themselves returning to the losers dressing-room on each occasion.

But if the 2009 defeat by Tyrone was hard to take, then the humiliating tumble against Fermanagh in 2008 was a gut-wrenching experience for the Oak Leaf faithful.

In that match Derry had enjoyed a seven-point advantage before proceedings took a dramatic turn.

Ronan Gallagher saved a penalty and substitute Barry Owens, making his return to the side after overcoming a heart problem, fisted a goal that effectively despatched the Oak Leaf side from the competition.

Little wonder then that manager John Brennan treads cautiously in advance of Sunday’s semi-final against an Armagh side that will be seeking their eighth provincial crown since 1999.

“Derry have been in semi-finals on several occasions over the past number of years but they have not been able to get over the line. Maybe it is a mental thing, I don’t know. But we will try to put things right on Sunday. We are certainly going to Clones to give a good performance,” asserts Brennan.

He has been urging his players not to look back but to focus totally on an Armagh side that has gained appreciably in confidence following their handsome win over Down at the quarter-final stage last month.

“Armagh are always a difficult side in the championship but at the same time if Derry can get over this hurdle then I think it will make a great difference to the mental ability of these players to proceed after that,” states Brennan.

“Armagh are cast in the role of favourites and that’s something for them to deal with. We have to deal with the challenge of raising our game for the occasion. We may be underdogs but we know we can improve.

“I want us to be able to express ourselves without any inhibitions and to show our character.”

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