Damian McErlain lauds 'massive step forward' against Tyrone despite disappointment

Ulster Senior Football Championship Preliminary Round

Derry manager Damian McErlain hailed his side's performance against Tyrone as a massive step forward despite the disappointment of another Ulster Championship defeat.

Derry midfielder Padraig Cassidy takes on Tyrone's Richard Donnelly during the Ulster Championship Preliminary Round clash at Healy Park.

Derry midfielder Padraig Cassidy takes on Tyrone's Richard Donnelly during the Ulster Championship Preliminary Round clash at Healy Park.

The Oak Leafers were completely written off by the media and pundits alike before the game, with some bookmakers offering odds of only 1/10 on Tyrone advancing to a quarter-final meeting against Antrim in two weeks.

Those odds looked well wide of the mark when Derry hit the front with nine minutes to play but ultimately Tyrone's strength in depth was enough to carry them over the line as Derry wilted after substitute Darren McCurry's brilliant goal.

Despite his disappointment, McErlain said the performance was full of positives as the Oak Leafers seek to regroup ahead of the Qualifiers.

"The players need to fully get that belief in themselves and see what they are capable of," said the Derry manager, "Tyrone are well down the road compared to ourselves in terms of experience with the matches they have played and even their condition. You could see that across the pitch today but we are on a road here to try and build a side and today was a massive step forward for us and we are now looking forward to the Qualifiers.

With three weeks before the Qualifiers get underway on June 8th, McErlain is not planning any drastic changes to his preparations.

"Preparations will take the same format as they have taken all year," added the Derry manager, "We have done a lot of work in the last three weeks and playing against teams like Tyrone in the Championship, it brings you on, there is no doubt about that. You know there is no room for slackness, or error, or lack of communication in your play etc.

"There was a massive amount of positives from today and we want to build on them."

Derry hit only one wide over the 74 minutes in Healy Park, a reflection of the efficiency the visitors had going forward but McErlain was frustrated they had not managed more shot in the opening 35 minutes.

"We only got eight shots away out of 17 attacks in the first half which was disappointing as we felt we should have got more away. In the second half we played some great stuff in terms of being on top in defence and we probably stayed on top in defence until they brought the fresh bit of quality in through their subs.

"That is where Tyrone are at, they have that armoury among their ranks and they pulled away at the end."

Shane McGuigan excellent second half goal which put Derry, albeit temporarily, in the driving seat was the county's first in the Ulster Championship since 2013 when Mark Lynch hit the net against Down and McErlain believes the Slaughtneil forward has the potential to become one of the best in Ulster.

"Shane is a class act at club level and he has proved today in one of the hottest environments in the country that he is a class act at county level as well," added McErlain.

"The man lives the football life; he puts the work in when he's at Owenbeg and when he's away from Owenbeg. He is a role model for all the lads coming through in the next few years."