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McGuigan is hoping to be inspired by spirit of 1993

 

Big goal: Slaughtneil’s Shane McGuigan knows Derry face a massive task against Tyrone
Big goal: Slaughtneil’s Shane McGuigan knows Derry face a massive task against Tyrone
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Labouring in the relative anonymity of Division Four of the Allianz Football League is regarded as being somewhat removed from an ideal sporting winter.

Yet for Derry marksman Shane McGuigan, the months of February and March marked a turning point in his career that he hopes will prove the precursor to even better things.

The elegant Slaughtneil clubman emerged as Derry's leading scorer in an eight-match unbeaten surge that elevated them into Division Three, but for McGuigan the acid test will come on Sunday when he lines out against Tyrone in the preliminary round of the Ulster Senior Football Championship at Healy Park, Omagh (4.00pm).

He may have proved a big fish in a small pond over the course of the league but the thoroughly grounded McGuigan is fully aware that his finishing skills will come in for a more forensic examination on the provincial stage.

"Any day I pull on the Derry jersey is a good day. When you look at boys like Anthony Tohill, Joe Brolly, Henry Downey and the rest who won our only All-Ireland title to date in 1993, you know you are being presented with the chance to join elite company," insists McGuigan.

"These players have set the standards for Derry at inter-county which the rest of us should aspire to.

"They are idols within the county because of what they achieved and I feel I am just privileged and honoured to be part of this squad. I hope to get a starting slot against Tyrone but no matter what my involvement, I will be giving it everything."

Derry's slump into Division Four last year came as a seismic shock within a county which has been rather more accustomed to keeping elite company, but McGuigan views the team's prompt return to Division Three as an encouraging omen ahead of their eagerly-awaited championship opener.

"While it was great to get that lift in the league, we know we will only gain real credibility if we can prove ourselves in the championship," he concedes.

"In recent years Tyrone have had the edge on us and in fact we have to go back to 2006 for our last championship win over Tyrone. A few of my Slaughtneil colleagues who were involved in that game still talk about it with great pride.

"This present Derry side know that if they can get the better of Tyrone on Sunday it would speak volumes for them and that's why we will be putting in a massive effort to achieve this."

Last year, Donegal beat Derry 2-16 to 0-16 in the Ulster Championship quarter-finals, thus consigning them to the All-Ireland qualifiers in which they rather meekly bowed the knee to Kildare in the opening round - 2-22 to 2-14 - thus rendering it an embarrassingly short championship season.

The nature of those back-to-back defeats was to cast a pall of gloom over the Oak Leaf county, which has only now begun to lift following the team's somewhat redeeming promotion to Division Three.

McGuigan clearly articulates the aspirations of everyone with the welfare of Derry football at heart when he declares: "It's going to take a big shift from all of us Derry players the like of which we have never put in before if we are to get the better of Tyrone on Sunday and thus rekindle the flame of ambition within our county.

"We will have to hunt for every ball, contest every situation and play ourselves to a standstill.

"Even in winning the league final against Leitrim, we gave away too many cheap scores and that's certainly something that we cannot afford to do against Tyrone.

"In previous meetings, when they went one or two points up that quickly became three or four points and suddenly the games were away from us."

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