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Ulster Championship: Derry have to rewrite history books

By John Campbell

Derry would do well not to dwell too much on the statistics which encompass their involvement in the Ulster Championship since 1998, as the countdown to Sunday’s semi-final against Armagh begins in earnest.

A litany of near misses, shattering setbacks and some abysmal performances constitute a record in the competition that is a source of embarrassment to many within the county.

Not since 1998 when they last claimed the Ulster title have Derry won back to back games in the provincial series – a statistic that is scarcely credible given Derry’s proud record in the National League which they have won on five occasions since 1992.

“Sadly, our Ulster Championship record does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny,” muses county PRO Chris McCann.

“Even when we made our last appearance in the final in 2000 there was actually a draw in the middle of that so we are still trying to win two games on the trot 13 years down the line.”

Derry lost to Armagh in the 1999 Ulster semi-final before capitulating to them again in the final the following year. They then lost to Tyrone in the 2001 semi-final, fell to Donegal in the 2002 semi-final and were beaten by Tyrone in the first round in 2003.

The Red Hands heaped more heartbreak on the Oak Leaf side in 2004 by winning the first round tie and in 2005 Armagh again proved their masters before Donegal triumphed in the 2006 semi-final.

It was Monaghan’s turn to dismantle Derry’s dreams in 2007 before Fermanagh produced a major shock by winning the 2008 semi-final at Omagh prior to a semi-final defeat by Tyrone in 2009.

Last year Armagh beat Derry in the first round so it’s not surprising that John Brennan’s side see Sunday’s game as an opportunity to gain some redemption given their depressing record against the orchard county in particular.

McCann makes the point that several members of the current Derry squad have been on the receiving end of major disappointments on a regular basis in the championship.

“If you take the likes of Gerard O’Kane, Paddy Bradley, Barry McGoldrick, Kevin McGuckin, Enda Muldoon, Mark Lynch, Kevin McCloy and Conleith Gilligan all of whom have been in the senior panel for several years, they have absorbed some sickening disappointments in big games,” concedes McCann.

“There is a lot of hurt in this Derry squad and hopefully we can come good on Sunday. To get back to back championship wins would be a bonus for us, after all.”

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