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Derry’s Benny Heron: We can’t sit back against an invigorated Clare at Croke Park

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Derry’s Benny Heron confronts Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan

Derry’s Benny Heron confronts Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan

©INPHO/John McVitty

Derry’s Benny Heron confronts Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan

Benny Heron has spent the past decade soldiering diligently in the trenches for Derry without having anything significant to show for his efforts but that long barren spell has been broken with the arrival of an Ulster Championship medal at long last.

Yet while the 31-year-old Ballinascreen clubman is delighted to have played a big part in ending his county’s tenure in the wilderness, a first provincial crown in twenty-four years has whetted his appetite for more honours.

And Heron hopes his team will take a big step towards this goal when they face Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-finals at Croke Park on Saturday week (3.45pm).

It’s a game which has sparked an explosion not merely of interest but rampant fanaticism within a county which has existed in the shadows for far too long.

Heron may have endured more disappointments than he might have anticipated while wearing the famous red and white jersey but right now he epitomises the spirit and drive of a revitalised outfit that can scarcely wait to get out onto the Croke Park sward.

“A place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals has been a long time in coming to us,” admits Heron, “While we enjoyed our Ulster final win, our thoughts turned immediately to what lay ahead and when it was confirmed that Clare will be our opponents on Saturday week the preparations were intensified.”

Derry may have written a new chapter in their history from a provincial perspective, Heron believes that a bigger challenge lies ahead. The Oak Leaf side took delivery of the Anglo-Celt Cup the hard way by beating Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal – all Division One sides – but Heron is convinced that the fresh hunger which has infiltrated Rory Gallagher’s team will come to the fore at Croke Park.

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“We knew that the Ulster final was going to go down to the wire and that’s exactly how things turned out in extra-time,” reflects Heron, “We believe it will be the same again at Croke Park. When you look at the way Clare beat Roscommon last Sunday you can see how resilient and committed they are.

“We might have beaten them in the League but they will have gained renewed confidence now. They played Roscommon in Croke Park which helped to give them a good feel of the pitch so they won’t have any concerns about their surroundings.”

And Heron has sounded a warning to his own side ahead of the showdown with Clare at Headquarters.

“In our earlier Ulster Championship matches against Tyrone and Monaghan we maybe sat back a little bit but we certainly cannot afford to do that against Clare. The way in which they came back at Roscommon shows the level of grit and determination there is within the side,” he points out.

It was Heron’s two goals that helped to cement his team’s 3-12 to 0-17 win over Monaghan but he believes that Derry may have to work very hard to put scores on the board.

“Clare will definitely be very much fired,” he insists, “They will see it as a great opportunity to make an impact at national level but from our perspective we are desperately keen to make it into the semi-finals. We must reach a new peak if we want to get that far.”

"While there is speculation in relation to the last four we know we have a match to win. Let’s just get on with it.”



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