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Oak Leaf crowd can be ticket to success

By John Campbell

The story doing the rounds mid-week was that Donegal were struggling to get rid of their ticket allocation for the big clash with Derry at Celtic Park tomorrow.

It put many in mind of the difficulties in getting rid of tickets in Tyrone last year for their visit to Ballybofey for the first round of the Ulster Championship.

That evening, looking around the ground, it was clear that whatever tickets had been sent back to Croke Park had been gobbled up by Tir Chonaill fans.

And while Derry's support hasn't always been bountiful, manager Brian McIver gave special praise in the wake of the league win over Dublin in Celtic Park.

Derry corner-back Dermot McBride added: "Our fans have been fantastic this year as well and they have made Celtic Park a bit of a fortress for us and we have not been beaten in it this year yet and hopefully that continues.

"Home advantage is always a big plus but I am sure that Donegal will be coming down and do what Donegal do, which is to try and turn you over.

"They have had a lot of success in the last three or four years and you can see how they are playing again this year; they are building towards this game and we know it is going to be a very stiff test."

Four weeks on from the league final, McBride revealed that subsequent studies of the Dublin defeat has been a worthwhile exercise in identifying problem areas.

"We prepared very well, we did everything we could but whatever happened on that day we did not play," he said.

"But we have sat down and looked at the video of it and we have not played like that all year. We were standing off men, we were giving the ball away; it wasn't how we had played but I suppose it was the best place to do it in the sense that you are up against the best in Ireland.

"Our target is to get to that pace and it might have been a harsh lesson to take, but it is something that we will learn from."

And McBride also echoed the thoughts of manager McIver when asked if the recent player departures are likely to hurt Donegal.

"You look at the controversy over Kevin Cassidy and yet that year they went on and won the All-Ireland – nobody thought that would have happened.

"He was one of their main men and they went on to win the All-Ireland, now hopefully that will not be the case this year," said McBride, before adding: "But that is Donegal – we will just concentrate on ourselves."

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