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Rogers urges Derry to show their quality

By John Campbell

Derry is one of several counties which has been handicapped to date this year by the absence of a number of players who distanced themselves before a ball was kicked.

The increased demands currently being made on inter-county personnel, the lure of global travel and the frustration occasioned by long-term injuries meant that manager Damian Barton headed into 2017 shorn of some of his prized assets.

Yet rather than curse the darkness, Barton settled for lighting a candle of hope by plunging a battalion of newcomers into his squad for the Dr McKenna Cup and Allianz League.

Progress has been slow, Barton's resources having been further stretched through the absence of his Slaughtneil representatives because of their involvement in not one but two All-Ireland finals in different codes.

Yet as the Oak Leafs prepare to embark on what they hope will prove a road of redemption against Tyrone in the Ulster Championship on Sunday, Barton can take heart from a rallying call issued by one of his more experienced soldiers.

Brendan Rogers represented Slaughtneil in both the hurling and football All-Ireland finals and has scarcely drawn breath for the past three seasons because of the avalanche of matches in which he has been involved.

Yet rather than slink into the shadows after his club had lost a second national football decider in three years, he immediately put his hand up for selection for Derry's last two league games against Cork and Fermanagh.

The upshot was that, having conceded 11 goals up until then, the Oak Leaf net did not ripple in either of those games and the side's demotion was only cemented by an out of the blue late point from Jerome Johnston for Down against Cork which ensured they, almost incredibly, stayed up.

The memories of that fall from grace are still raw with Rogers but on Sunday he feels the team can reveal their true character.

"Players have commitments in terms of families, jobs and other things and it probably does not suit some of them to give the dedication that is needed to training and preparation," stated Rogers.

"If you can't give the time to that, then you should not be wasting your own or other people's time. It would be nice to see some of the guys who did step away coming back because you will only become the best when you play with the best and against the best.

"It won't dishearten me because I think we as a team now should see the Ulster Championship as an opportunity to step up. I think if everyone concentrates on their job, if we are as competitive and if we can give a true reflection of our ability then we might not be too far away."

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