JOE Diver admits he has a score to settle with Donegal!
Michael Wilson reports
Most Derry players have preferred to play down the idea of a Ballybofey ‘revenge mission’ but last year’s controversial Ulster Final defeat in Clones hit the big Bellaghy midfielder hard.
After a breakthrough year in which Diver finally established himself as first choice and earned rave reviews for his midfield partnership with Michael Friel, watching Michael Murphy lift the Anglo Celt Cup 12 is not something Diver will easily forget.
“I’m not going to lie and say I’m not motivated by the fact we were beaten in the Ulster Final last year,” admits Diver, “Personally, I took it really bad. It took me a bit of time to recover from it and the disappointment that it brought.
“You think how good things could have been had we won it. It was a big disappointment but there are disappointments in football and disappointments in life. You just have to get on with it, move on and try again.
“I look at last year as a good year for myself. I played some of my best football and hopefully this year will be another good year for me but you always need the support of the team which has to perform well. However, we have been performing well in training and are confident going into this game
“I was part of a team that won in Ballybofey before. We went there and put in a really good performance that day. I remember it was 26 degrees and a really tough day. I think everyone expected Donegal to come out of that one at the time. However, this is a different year though you always have to have confident as a gaelic footballer playing at inter-county level. If are not you are defeated already.
“Personally, I have always been confident in myself to go and put it up against the man I am marking and come out the better. I think it is up to us all to have that confidence and try to get the better of the man we’re marking. If 60% of us manage that then we can come out on the right side of the result.”
That confidence will be crucial as the Oak Leafers will be underdogs but the Bellaghy midfielder, who again partners Friel this Sunday, is adamant this was the draw he was looking for.
“You have to defeat all the big teams but I’m relatively pleased we have a match against Donegal. If somebody was to offer me a match against Donegal the week after last year’s Ulster final I would have taken it. We’ve had to wait a year to meet them again and we will be motivated for the game, make no mistake. We were disappointed last year but this is a second bite of the cherry and we will hopefully take it this time.”
With Donegal likely to deploy similarly defensive tactics to 12 months ago, Diver claims the onus is on Derry to maintain their discipline and take the chances that come their way.
“Even among the established players there was a certain lack of composure in the Ulster Final, we are aware of that and hopefully have learned from it. We can only move forward and acknowledge we kicked a lot of wides, players kicked with their bad foot; unusual things to be doing and that could have been down to big match pressure.
“Again, this is going to be a game where we are under a lot of pressure in terms of their defensive unit and trying to get our scores. We are aware of that and we know long-range kicking is going to be important but we also know that if we play our own style of football, and let our lads display their skills with composure, they will perform.
“The issue with ourselves in consistency but we are always able to put up a good performance on any given day and hopefully the Donegal match is one of those days,” he added.