Walking away never crossed our minds says Brendan Rogers as Derry secure Ulster Final spot

Only three years ago, he was helping drag Derry out of Division Four so there’s no danger of Brendan Rogers getting carried away by a couple of good championship results.

But nor was there any danger the circumstances that brought the Oak Leafers to their 2018 nadir would cause Rogers to rethink his commitment to his county. That’s not Rogers’ style and no longer, it seems, is it Derry’s.

Rory Gallagher’s ‘commit to each other’ mantra has fully taken hold and shaped a tightly knit panel that has caused Ulster Championship shocks against both Tyrone and Monaghan, with Rogers revealing walking away never crossed his mind when things weren’t quite as rosy in the Derry ‘garden’

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“Walking away is not in our nature,” explained the 28-year old, “It’s very easy to walk away when things are hard and say that I don’t want to be a part of that, but you learn a lot from those things.

Brendan Rogers and the other Derry players are swamped by fans after Sunday's four point victory over Monaghan in the Athletic Grounds.

“You learn who the people are that want to be in behind you – they’re the ones you want to have with you on a big day. Those are the guys that are putting in the hard yards and I suppose we knew at that time that things weren’t great in Derry, we weren’t that naïve. It was no fault of anybody before but it just didn’t click the way we wanted it to and maybe with the club seasons overlapping and things like that, we couldn’t get any momentum in the leagues and it was fragmented with players not being there.

“Look, we managed to get ourselves together, we put in the hard work and we knew the guys that did all the Division Four games together and built up, we got confidence in playing with each other and I suppose it was part and parcel with Rory coming along and bringing that togetherness. The more time you spend with each other and the more football you play with each other, through the good times and bad, it’ll solidify you.

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“Monaghan weren’t too long ago coming up from Division Three and winning an Ulster championship from Division Two so it’s doable but you have to stick together. There’s no point shying away from the fact that we were in Division Four but we did the work together and now we want to push on.”

Gallagher’s arrival and passion has been the spark that has reignited the Derry fires but others like Damian McErlain have laid bricks in the rebuilt Oak Leaf house that could be traced back to the Ulster minor victory of 2015.

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“Rory’s got a massive amount of passion and that’s not just on matchday – that’s at training, that’s everyday that he brings that relentless demand,” adds Rogers, “That’s what we need to keep pushing us and we try to push him as well. Maybe he doesn’t like that side of things (laughs) but it’s all part of it!

“He’s an exciting character along the line but that gives you energy and you need that, it gives you an edge that you can’t rest on your laurels.

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“We tried to not look too much on that Tyrone game. It was just the right to play in a semi-final and the old cliché that semi-finals are just there for winning and we’ve only earned the right to play in the final. We can’t be naïve to the fact that we’ve beaten two decent teams and they’re obviously Division One standard and that’s the level we want to be at. We’ve got over two hurdles and it’s a good platform to build on for the final.

“It wasn’t perfect but it’s nice to get the win and maybe to not have the perfect performance in the semi-final because we have something to keep us grounded for the next day.”

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Derry will now face Donegal on May 29th in Clones, their first Ulster Senior final since 2011 when Donegal was again the opposition and Rogers says it is important the county weighs in behind their attempts to bridge the 11 year gap.

“You have to demand that standard if you ever want to be there and the more we try to aim for it and push on for it, not accepting second best and pats on the back and things like that, that’s the only way we get better. Look, we have improved from last year. I can’t say we’re the best team in Ireland and we’re not at the top table yet because we’re still in Division Two, but that’s the standard we want to be at.

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“It’s nice and I suppose it creates that little bit of a buzz that we’ve been looking for in Derry for a long time now and it’s great to see the supporters and kids all out. It gives us a lot of kick to really push on in two weeks’ time.

“Donegal are a team we’re familiar with given we played them last year in the championship so we know what we’re getting ourselves into and so do they and I think it’ll be a very good contest.”

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Brilliant Derry defeat Monaghan to set up Ulster Final against Donegal