Big match reaction
Declan Bonner will be straight up about it. They walked into that battle on their own patch with their eyes wide open.
“We had spoken about it going down to the wire to be honest. We knew what Derry were going to bring and they brought it in abundance,” he explained.
“It was a real Ulster Championship match, to be honest, I was just delighted, as I said in the hotel earlier on, if we come out of this with a one point win we would be delighted with it.”
He continued: “It’s been thrown at this group about character and when we come down the winning straight that we are fairly brittle. But that’s not the case. There is great character in this group, and we had shown in throughout the National League campaign, coming from big deficits and today was no different to be quite honest.
“We didn’t panic, the substitutions were important to us going in and yeah, the right man at the right time was Patrick McBrearty and he put up a brilliant score.”
Down four points in the second half and screaming for the water break and a bit of a momentum breaker, they would have taken a shot at extra time. That they finished it in regulation time comes as a bonus to them with a game next week.
Another bonus was getting their captain Michael Murphy on the pitch and getting him back off it again safely.
“Listen, he was passed fit for the Down game and he came out after 30 minutes, so we got another 30 minutes into him today and that was important for us to be quite honest,” he said.
“It’s one thing saying it, he’s got to get football, he’s got to get back in and so we’re delighted that he got through that game. He’s come through it well.”
For losing Derry manager Rory Gallagher, this was a loss with a sting.
“Bitterly disappointed, so I am,” he said.
“It was a big ask to come here but I thought we were good enough to win. We feel we are capable of being an Ulster heavyweight but we came out the wrong side of it.”
But he sees enough in this project to know he wants to stick with it.
After three years at Jim McGuinness’ side in Donegal, followed by three years as the main man, he spent two in his native Fermanagh, reaching the Ulster final in his first year.
There is a sense here though that he can feel most at home and there is a mutual buy-in between county board, the clubs, players and the management team. There is huge potential, for sure.
“It is very difficult to just rock up and to be a team. There is an awful lot made of Donegal’s rise in 2011; some of it by you boys in the media that is overestimated because Donegal won a National League in 2007.
“We are not coming from that strong a place, they were in an All-Ireland under-21 final in 2010 so Donegal in 2011 had a serious group of players.”
He continued, “We are probably coming from a wee bit further back than that but you want to be playing against these teams and that is the best place to learn, and that is no disrespect to the lower divisions.
“It is against the Donegals, Tyrones, Armaghs and Monaghans you learn from, they do everything right, they stick together, they learn how to lose together, how to win together. They don’t get too up or too down and they improve.”