Westmeath win only first step says Mickey Harte as Derry drawn against Mayo

Shane McGuigan on the attack for Derry against Westmeath at Pairc Esler, Newry, on Saturday. (Photo: Brendan Monaghan)Shane McGuigan on the attack for Derry against Westmeath at Pairc Esler, Newry, on Saturday. (Photo: Brendan Monaghan)
Shane McGuigan on the attack for Derry against Westmeath at Pairc Esler, Newry, on Saturday. (Photo: Brendan Monaghan)
Mickey Harte believes Saturday's victory over Westmeath represents only the first step of the process of rebuilding Derry's championship season as they prepare to face Mayo in the All Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.

Harte was delighted with the character shown by his team which had come in for some fierce criticism following defeats to Donegal, Galway and Armagh but warned there is still work to do to get back to the calibre of football they produced during the league.

"It’s a great result for us. We couldn’t think of anything else other than getting a result," admitted the Derry manager after Saturday’s 2-07 to 0-09 victory, "We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, and that’s the fact of the matter.

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"We were very impressed with Westmeath against Galway especially. They were a team on a mission as well and they were playing good football. We knew that, coming off the results we had, morale was dented, and it was difficult for the players to get back the belief they had that took them to the top of Division One.

"That is the beginning of the process of building back a bit of confidence and a bit of belief that they can play very good football, but it doesn’t solve all our problems. We still have to be aware of what caused us damage in the games that we lost, and try and continue to work so they don’t happen again, certainly in such a prolific fashion."

Harte revealed Niall Loughlin is closing on a return to action but was unable to confirm if the Greenlough forward would be fit to play any part against Mayo. He was full of praise for the impact of Steelstown corner-back Diarmuid Baker who has gone from strength to strength since his McKenna Cup debut.

"He’s a great player," said Harte of the Brian Ogs defender, "I said that from the first day we saw him, and he’s just grown in stature as the year’s gone on. He’s very humble about it all, he’s just like Conor McCluskey, they’re two peas in a pod.

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"There’s no talk out of them, they just go about their job with real efficiency and real quality, and we’re blessed to have those two men at two and four.

"Niall’s come on well too. In another week or two he could be much better – if we have a week or two. I know we’ve one week, but if we have any more than that I’d say he’d be knocking on the door."

Derry will now face a Mayo side who were within seconds of taking the direct route to the quarter-finals until Cormac Costello's late leveller gave Dublin top spot in the group and Harte hopes his players can take confidence from a first championship win of the season.

"Obviously it’ll do them some good, how much I don’t know," he added of the victory in Pairc Esler, "We’ll be in the same position next week, we’ll be out to play a game where it’s winner takes all. If you win it, you can say yes, the confidence of this week was great, but if we don’t win that game then you might say it didn’t fix the confidence issue. That’s all to be answered yet."

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