Damian Barton conceded critics will claim Derry are no further forward than last year after Tyrone defeated them by 11 points for the second year in succession following a disappointing Ulster Championship Quarter-final in Celtic Park.
Barton's team found themselves five points down after the opening 12 minutes but fought back to leave it 0-11 to 0-8 four minutes into the second half. Indeed, they had chances to close the gap further before Tyrone stepped up a gear to run away with the game in the final quarter, hitting 11 points in the final 22 minutes after Derry had gone 22 minutes without troubling the scoreboard.
"That’s it – same margin as last year. Really and truly, you could argue – ‘have we moved?" admitted the Derry manager.
"It has been a difficulty two seasons. You look at the personnel we had on the pitch today, four debutantes, the age profile is much younger and with that there is the lack of experience."
Derry had been written off before a ball was kicked and while pessimistic pre-match predictions ultimately proved accurate, the Oak Leaf manager said his team's preparations had been good.
"We came here to win not to compete. I am not rolling out clichés here but our preparation was good. We did not intend to start going up against a blanket defence and start going lateral. It is something that is even endemic in club football in Derry – this business of keep the ball, keep the ball and manufacture an opening.
"We didn’t get ahead of the ball and were very static going forward. We didn’t get inside that often. I thought at 0-11 to 0-8, we had a couple of chances where we had an overlap, we made the wrong decision. Obviously decision making is a big part of this game and we need to learn there too.
"I knew that if we could bring it a bit closer, even if we could hit the net we were in with a chance. As it is, Tyrone went back up the pitch and scored the next two scores – there was five points in it. Five points becomes six, six becomes seven and so it goes."
The Derry manager was left to lament to strength Mickey Harte was able to introduce off his bench with Lee Brennan and Darren McCurry contibuting five points between them.
"They brought on a bit of freshness from the substitutes bench, they had a big contribution on the scoreboard as well. At that stage, mentally we went on to our heels and physically went on to our heels.
"They got some easy scores and it very much of a replica of the first-half 0-10 to 0-5, double cores in the second-half again.
Is there a positive about not conceding a goal, in all probability – yes. But our concession of some of the points was way too easy at the end.
It was a difficult day, emotionally and physically you could tell, we put an awful effort in. There are Division One teams in particular, Tyrone being one of them, that are maybe that yard ahead of everyone else in germs of development, in terms of the level they are playing at."