McShane laments lack of time as Derry Minors exit Ulster Championship against Armagh

There was to be no second Ulster, nor indeed All Ireland, Minor title for Derry this year with assistant manager Darren McShane admitting he would have loved more preparation time with the 2021 squad.

Armagh’s Matthew McCaughley and Emmet Magee fail to stop Niall O’Donnell of Derry having a shot at goal. (Photo: George Sweeney). DER2130GS – 034
Armagh’s Matthew McCaughley and Emmet Magee fail to stop Niall O’Donnell of Derry having a shot at goal. (Photo: George Sweeney). DER2130GS – 034

Manager Martin Boyle, McShane and the entire minor management team had gone above and beyond, balancing the demands of the 2020’s All Ireland winning run with that of a 2021 squad who had already missed out on participating in the Buncrana Cup due to Covid. In the end, only a kick of a ball separated Derry from Armagh on Wednesday night as Calum O’Neill’s injury time point took the Orchard County through 0-12 to 0-11 and left McShane admitting he would have loved more time with his Derry squad.

“These boys are only figuring out county football but they gave everything,” explained the Derry assistant boss, “If you look back to the start of the whole Covid pandemic, they haven’t even played Buncrana Cup. They have missed a huge amount of development and then this minor season, their main season, is so condensed, maybe seven weeks for them. That’s not much time to get a county team ready.

“I know other people are in the same position but the likes of ourselves who had both teams, there were eight teams who had to return to the 2020 campaign, and it probably is a factor. It’s not an excuse though and not one we want to use.

Derry Minor assistant boss Darren McShane. (Photo: George Sweeney)

“We just felt that there is more in this team, there would be a massive improvement. There is quite a few young lads in the panel who started tonight who will be back next year. We would just have loved more time with them.”

McShane said managing both minor teams simultaneously had not stopped them getting as much work done as possible in the shortened 2021 window and referenced the All Ireland winning squad’s tough opening Ulster championship win in December 2020.

“It was tough in your head when you looked forward to the week you were going to have but we tried to make it so that we weren’t doubling up with sessions on the same night,” he explained, “We would have split the nights, the 2020s one night, the 2021s the next. The only time we doubled up was when it was a recovery session for one.

“In terms of losing focus and not getting enough work done, I think with the time we’ve had we’ve done as much as we could. The boys who were in the 2020 squad are great leaders. It would be nice to have them training with the 2021s just for their influence but that wasn’t to be, they had to stay with the other squad.

“No, the only regret is more time with them would have been nice. Had we managed to get over the line there - we knew it was going to be a battle tonight - but had we got over the line we would have had a nice 10 days to work on ourselves.

“The first game in the championship is always the hardest hurdle. Get over it and you can grow into it, particularly for this team with the time they’ve had. I really feel that they would have absolutely grown into this championship had they got across the line but they are small margins. They were small margins back in December but unfortunately tonight we are on the wrong side of them.”

Looking at the match itself, McShane admitted a failure to take chances had eventually come back to haunt Derry as Armagh fought back in the second half from a 0-8 to 0-5 interval deficit.

“We just needed to keep the scoreboard moving, keep picking off scores but we just went too long a period when they were edging back at us. We had missed opportunities, we dropped seven shots short when we maybe could have taken it in another yard or shown a bit more composure to keep the scoreboard moving just enough. Having not done that, it encourages Armagh and they had a bit of momentum at that stage and in the last 10 minutes we really didn’t have the answers for them.”