James Kielt claims the pain of May’s timid Ulster Championship defeat to Tyrone has become the catalyst for the Oak Leaf players to prove they can become a force again.
The Kilrea forward was in superb form against Louth, scoring 1-09 of Derry’s tally of 1-18 as Damian Barton’s side set up a second round home tie against either Meath or Dublin in two weeks.
County players know themselves if they have performed well or if the team has done well. We didn’t need to listen to papers or TV saying how bad we had been, we knew ourselves.James Kielt
“When you look back at the Tyrone game we knew we had let a lot of people down, myself and the others players,” explained Kielt, “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and think, ‘What are we doing here?’ because we were going into the Tyrone game thinking we could give them a fair rattle. Other people also thought like that but we disappointed a lot of people, especially ourselves.
“We wanted to make the people of Derry realise that we have a decent team and can maybe go places.
“No matter how you get on these days there are no shortage of critics with the various media and TV outlets, as everybody knows.
“With a lot of the players now - and I’m sure this is true of other counties as well - they don’t listen to it (the criticism). County players know themselves if they have performed well or if the team has done well. We didn’t need to listen to papers or TV saying how bad we had been, we knew ourselves.
“Criticism is just one of those things that you get as a county footballer and you have to deal with it.”
Louth went into Saturday’s Qualifier just six days after losing to Meath in the Leinster Championship but Kielt says Derry were fully aware they faced a test of character against the ‘Wee County’.
“It was a good result and this is a results business, especially with the Qualifiers. You have no more chances, it is ‘win or bust’ at this stage.
“We have been here over the past few seasons against the likes of Longford - those so called ‘weaker’ teams - and we have come up short, so we knew it was never going to be easy against Louth. Louth would have taken great heart from a good season and they have Paddy Crozier in their backroom so they knew our players inside out. It was important to get over this hurdle and it’s a good victory.
“We were never expecting an easy game. Louth got the short straw. They played six days ago. We have been on that side of it before and it’s very tough to come out after a defeat like they had. Not just the physical game but with the defeat you are mentally drained for a few days after.
“The 10 minute period in the second half when we pushed from two points down to a few points up was probably the winning of the game. From there on we looked well in control.”
Kielt said the players had paid no heed to the pre-match favourites tag and were focused now on trying to build momentum for a run in the Qualifiers.
“We knew Louth are not a bad side. Against Meath last week it was nip and tuck and we had drawn with Meath at Owenbeg a couple of months ago in the league. You always look at the league standings when a draw is made. People assumed because it’s a Division Two team playing a Division Four team that made Derry hot favourites, especially at home, but championship football is all about on the day.”