Derry manager Damien Cassidy refused to make any excuses for his side’s disappointing Ulster Championship preliminary round defeat at the hands of Armagh in Celtic Park yesterday afternoon.
Cassidy, whose side were relegated to Division Two of the National League earlier this season, made no attempt to hide his disappointment at the end of a keenly contested and physical championship encounter.
“I’m desperately disappointed. We have trained so hard and prepared so well for this one but on the day it just didn’t happen for us,” admitted the Bellaghy man.
“The biggest disappointment of all was our awful inability to score in the second half as we managed only two points and no side can win a championship game with that sort of return.
“I’m certainly not blaming Gerard O’Kane for the missed penalty, as far as I’m concerned Armagh keeper Hearty made a good save.”
Cassidy will look back with regret on how Derry, after going ahead through Paddy Bradley’s goal, allowed Armagh back into contention mainly through the efforts of Steven McDonnell. The sides went in on level terms at the break but it was Armagh who took command in the second half with Charlie Vernon very much to the fore in midfield.
Derry didn’t help their cause late in the contest when Eoin Bradley, one of their most dangerous attackers, was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.
Cassidy has always had mixed feelings about referees and, while he wasn’t placing all the blame on Laois whistler Maurice Deegan, he still made his point in fairly strong language.
“You know my views on referees by now and while he (Deegan) made some strange decisions during the game it was the same for both sides.
“We have now six weeks before the start of the qualifiers and I would like to think that we still have much to play for this summer.
“Our play in the second half was just too bad to be true as we are a much better team than we showed. Had the penalty gone in there would have only been a point between the sides and who is to say what might have happened.”
Derry midfielder Fergal Doherty limped off with a hamstring injury near the end of the game and will face a race against time to be fit for the qualifiers. Armagh’s James Lavery also went off with an injury but he is expected to be back training within two weeks.
Armagh have no time to rest on their laurels as they face Joe Kernan’s Galway in a challenge match in Clonmore, home of Brendan Donaghy, later this month.