These are special times for Derry says Brendan Rogers after first Ulster win in 24 years
Had referee Sean Hurson's full-time whistle not stopped him, Brendan Rogers would likely still be covering every blade of the St. Tiernach's Park pitch!
The same whistle - after almost 100 minutes of lung busting, energy sapping minutes - which confirmed Derry as Ulster champions also brought an end to one of the great full-back displays in recent provincial finals. To describe Rogers as a full-back though seems understated and never more so than on Sunday Clones.
Scoring 0-3 from play, including one of the two Derry points that secured the victory in the second period of extra-time, detailed to mark Donegal talisman Michael Murphy and generally providing a spark each and every time Derry needed lifting, this was the type of performance puts players in the running for All Stars, not that the modest Slaughtneil player was thinking any further than enjoying a first Oak Leaf title in 24 years.
“It’s special times. If you said we’d be Ulster champions at the start of the year then obviously you’d take in it a heartbeat," smiled Rogers after Sunday's 1-16 to 1-14 victory.
"It was a very tough game and there was a lot of work that went into it. I suppose we did it the hard way by playing all the top teams and we came out of a titanic battle at the end. It’s great looking at the supporters and the wains and everything you see out here – hopefully this will do Derry the world of good for a long time to come.
"We still have to put in the work ourselves for the next couple of weeks and we will have to move on from this. We’ll celebrate it and enjoy today and tomorrow but then it’s back to the grindstone again.”
Describing his overriding emotion as 'relief', Rogers paid tribute to the support the players receive throughout the year and single out family members whom he stressed play a huge part in every player's journey.
“The family do see the good and the bad of it and it’s not all good," he explained, "There’s a lot of hard days when you'd be crabbit in the house because you’re tired and sore from training but you just get on with it, and they try to do the best things for you. They help with the clothes, preparing food and all them things behind the scenes so it’s brilliant to have them here today. I’m delighted for them and for all the families as much as anybody. From chatting to the players, you know the work that goes in and it’s good for everybody.”
So now that he's made a name as a free scoring Ulster Final attacker, will be seeking to swap team jerseys with his Slaughtneil club-mate and Derry full forward Shane McGuigan?
“We’ll not get too far ahead of ourselves in getting me out the pitch! I think I scored the last one from maybe the 13 metre line so it was hard to miss," he laughed, "Aw look, you knew that it put us in a good place going forward and every point at the stage of the game was very precious. There was only four or five scored in extra-time in total so I knew the value of it. But, look, I had to get back down the pitch and defend immediately again and we had a couple of goal line saves from the other guys. It was difficult, but such a relief at the end, it’s just brilliant.”
“It doesn’t get much better than that and it’s very difficult to put into words. There will be a lot of happy people around the county over the next while because we haven’t had much to shout about and finally we do. It’s a relief really.”