Brendan Rogers believes Derry are winning back the Oak Leaf support after defeating Meath to set up an All Ireland Qualifying Round 3A tie with Cavan this Saturday in Breffni Park (3.30pm).
The Oak Leafers came in for a barrage of criticism following the tepid Ulster Championship defeat to Tyrone but have responded with two qualifying victories and the nature of Saturday’s impressive second half comeback against the ‘Royals’ has Rogers believing a Quarter-final and further may not be beyond Derry.
“We can go to training more confident than we did after the Louth game,” explained the Slaughtneil defender following the 1-14 to 1-11 victory, “I felt training became more productive after the Louth game. Everybody was happy and things were working well. I can only imagine it will pick up again after this win and there’s no reason why people should be doubting us at this stage. We can definitely kick on now.
“We know that of the teams left on our side of the draw, there are not the Kerrys; the Dublins; so why couldn’t we beat anyone? Our only focus was getting over Meath and getting a result. We will try to get another result or two and then it would be the quarter-final and you never know what could happen on a big occasion.
“If we get a few more training sessions under our belt, manage to get another win or two and confidence would be high. That’s how you build momentum but it is important that we still take it one game at a time. Two wins doesn’t guarantee you anything in football.”
Rogers says he can understand supporters’ frustrations but stressed the benefits of having the crowd behind the team. “I know some people were a bit sceptical before the Meath game about how things would go after the way the last couple of Championship games had gone but hopefully we have won those spectators back. It was good to see that reaction. As players you like encouragement from the crowd. It spurs you on to do things, gives you that extra yard; that extra bounce; whatever you want to call it.
“That’s how you open teams up. You have everyone hyped up and everybody is happy with what they are doing.”
Rogers was harshly black carded for a tangle with Cillian O’Sullivan in Saturday’s game but was at a loss to explain the difference between Derry’s first half and second half displays.
“To be honest, I don’t know how you explain it. You can only try and make things work. We tried in the first half and the whole thing fell apart if we are honest. We couldn’t get to grips with the game but in the second half we did.
“I don’t know whether we kicked another gear or not but I think momentum had a lot to do with it. Mark Lynch and Chrissy McKaigue picked up on it at half-time. They said, ‘Just get momentum and you never know where it will take us’.
“I think that is what happened. Conor McAtamney set up an early point and then we won the kick-out and scored another straight after. That took the sting out of it (Meath’s half-time lead) and five points is never impossible in any football game, especially with that breeze.
“I think the turning point was mental, a change in mentality.”