DERRY manager Ger Rogan refused to get carried away despite the emphatic nature of his side’s superb opening day victory over Wicklow.
Michael Wilson reports
The Antrim man described his team’s first half performance on Sunday in Celtic Park as ‘outstanding’ and said it was important to lay down a marker ahead of the two teams meeting in the Christy Ring Cup later this year.
“We were 18 points up at half-time and it is very hard to sustain that and you know as critical as you want to be about the second half, I want to concentrate much more on the positive nature of the first half,” explained the Derry manager.
“We had young Niall Ferris, Brendan Rodgers, Paul Cleary, Chrissy Convery and these are all young lads and they were outstanding, absolutely outstanding. It is a normal thing at this level, that it can be very difficult to sustain that sort of work rate over 70 minutes. To maintain what those players put into that first half would have been very difficult.
“We had some super scores. Some of our hurling from defence right through the build-up and the scores themselves were absolutely top drawer. I am so pleased for the young players. I mean Brendan (Rodgers) is only out of Minors last year and Niall Ferris, the pace they give you and the difference in the forward line, they give you that goal threat. We always looked capable if we played quality ball inside that we could get a goal.
“I couldn’t ask for much more but it is only the first game and as good a win as it is we are not going to get carried away. There are still a lot of things to work on but isn’t it great when you know the lads can play that kind of quality hurling.”
Wicklow had held something of a ‘hoodoo’ over Rogan’s men in recent years and he was delighted to reverse a losing streak that goes back six games.
“We did owe them. That was our first victory in I think six games but this was the first time they were up in Derry in a long time so we tried to give them as nice a welcome as we could and I don’t think we did too badly! No, at the end of the day, that performance is gone. We have got the two points and that is the most important thing. The nice bonus is that these young lads have learned what is expect of them at this level so we are well pleased with that performance.
“We found a few things to say to them at half-time. You have to be totally ruthless at this level and that was only 35 minutes so we needed to find out can we drive on and turn the screw? You set yourself a different target in relation to what you want out of the next 35 minutes. We knew the game was basically over at half-time so it was about concentration and getting that ruthlessness built into the team. Then there’s the knowledge that you know you are going to meet Wicklow in the first Round of the Christy Ring, you want to give them something to think about.”
If the scorers grabbed the first half headlines, it was Derry’s defence that provided them with the necessary platform which some superb defending as Rogan acknowledged.
“Yes, we have worked very hard in defence. A lot of people talk about what you do when you have possession but the big thing at this level is about what you do when you don’t have the ball, the hooking, the blocking and the pressure. That comes from corner-forward right back through the team. It was a big loss for us to lose Conor (Quinn) to injury but then we had a ‘Rolls Royce’ of a player in Paddy Kelly who could drop straight into full-back and he just doesn’t look out of place wherever you play him. The lads worked very hard all over the pitch and that gives you the platform to play the kind of hurling we played up front.”