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Damian Barton: We will step it up and give Derry fans lots to roar about

By Declan Bogue

Derry manager Damian Barton has appealed to Oak Leaf supporters to make life uncomfortable for Tyrone in the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final this Sunday at Celtic Park.

The Newbridge man wants to turn up the heat at the Brandywell venue. He said: "If there's one thing I would like to emphasise it is that I really would love Derry fans to get out and support us.

"It's a home game, I know they're good supporters - I'd like more of them because the boys have worked very, very hard.

"Our ambition is to go and perform for them - not just ourselves - so I do think it would be an absolute blessing if we were to support the team in numbers and I call on every man, woman and child who are Derry supporters to come out, and our expectation is that we're going to give them something to be proud of that day and in the days after."

In the past, the Oak Leaf support have been reluctant to fill their home venue, but that is something the 1993 All-Ireland winner wants to change from Sunday.

"That needs to change," stated Barton. "This is a very proud county and sometimes when success hasn't been readily there, it makes it a wee bit more difficult. I think you can't beat the spectacle of the Ulster Championship and certainly Derry against Tyrone perhaps adds that wee bit more spice to it."

Derry have been without a provincial Championship since Joe Brolly's late sucker punch goal against Donegal in the 1998 final. That's something the management have prioritised since taking over the reins.

"The Ulster Championship is the Ulster Championship - our intention is to win it," declared Barton.

Both Barton and his selector, former Tyrone player Brian McGuckin, are teachers in St Patrick's College in Dungannon, with the latter joking that break times and lunch are spent holding meetings with Barton in his room.

Barton said of the conversations: "I have to say, the kids in school are fantastic. It's not a scoffing session. It's nice, friendly banter. We'll see what it might be like after Sunday."

And on that front, he makes the surprise admission that he is unsure of his best starting XV.

"It's good to hold something back, not least to counter what the opposition bring onto the pitch. It's very much evolved into a 20, 21-man game."

McGuckin, the former Tyrone player who only just finished playing club action with Edendork, admits that Sunday will be a strange occasion for him.

"I've a lot of fond memories of playing for Tyrone and obviously I've a lot of friendships in the county, and still have a lot of allegiance towards Tyrone," he admitted.

"I've just retired from playing club football with Edendork but I live in Ballinderry, my kids play for Ballinderry and my father played for Ballinderry. I've a lot of relatives involved.

"I'm very proud now to be involved with Derry. Regarding Sunday, my allegiance lies fully with Derry and a Derry win, which is what we are hoping for."

There is an added spice in that while McGuckin was a highly-rated player, it was when Mickey Harte became the Tyrone manager that his inter-county career came to an abrupt end, when it appeared he had many years left in front of him.

Even so, he feels a step up to operate in the county game was a natural progression, having walked the line as coach for his school for well over a decade.

"I'm very passionate about Gaelic games, it was a natural transition for me after my playing days to go into coaching and management," he said.

"I was very honoured when Damian asked me to get involved with the Derry set-up, I'm really enjoying the experience and I'm really looking forward to the game against Tyrone."

Belfast Telegraph


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