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Positive mindset can help Oak Leafs achieve great things in 2019: O'Brien

By John Campbell

Players from less successful counties can either look back in anger at missed opportunities this year or adopt an optimistic approach entering 2019.

Derry's Terence O'Brien tends to embrace the latter stance as his team go into a season where they will be under huge pressure in the league and Championship.

The Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup will afford manager Damian McErlain the opportunity to assess some fresh talent next month, but from then on the Oak Leaf side will start to feel the heat.

Marooned in Division Four of the league and without an Ulster title since 1998, Derry don't have their sorrows to seek.

Yet O'Brien typifies the resilience of a group of players who are clearly determined to restore a semblance of pride to the Derry brand.

"We have a new panel for the McKenna Cup but the important thing for us is to gain promotion to Division Three," stated O'Brien. "We want to try and ultimately get up through the divisions. We're going to have to put in a big year and try and get ourselves out of the situation we are in at present.

"A collection of different things might have gone wrong this year but there is no point in dwelling on these. We have to be positive and move forward."

With the Slaughtneil contingent back in harness, some players recovered from injuries and others clearly bent on repaying the faith that manager McErlain is prepared to show in them, O'Brien feels that Derry will be better equipped this time round to target progress.

And if promotion in the league is a priority, the challenge of making significant headway in the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships is very much on the Oak Leaf radar.

"We are going to have to face quality sides if we hope to do well in the Championship. Tyrone come into this bracket and I'm actually living with Michael McKernan, who was superb for them this year, in our student digs," said O'Brien.

"As you can imagine, there is no shortage of banter between us but, on a serious note, we want to try and restore Derry's image."

O'Brien will be in the UUJ side that will face IT Tralee in the opening round of Sigerson Cup fixtures next month and he expects to come up against a few county stars.

"That's the thing about the Sigerson Cup, there are quality players in every team so you have to be on your toes," added O'Brien.

In the other opening Sigerson Cup fixtures, St Mary's will travel to NUIG while Queen's University will meet Maynooth University.

The three Ulster seats of learning, of course, were included in last night's Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup draw.

The competition will start on December 30.

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