Ulster Senior Football Championship
Karl McKaigue believes Derry’s improved Championship display against Tyrone can help persuade the county’s football fans to rally in behind the senior team - but only if they build on it in the Qualifiers!
The Slaughtneil defender was excellent in an encouraging performance that saw Damian McErlain’s team take the lead with only nine minutes remaining. Ultimately, Darren McCurry’s quick fire goal sent Tyrone through to a quarter-final meeting with Antrim but Derry did enough to suggest better times lie ahead.
“Absolutely no one, even most of our own county men, gave us any chance,” admitted McKaigue, “It was setting us up for another embarrassment according to what the tabloids were saying but we had a quiet confidence. We knew we were well prepared.
“We executed our plan for large parts of the game but while it is disappointing, it is still a step forward.
“However, there is no point putting in a half decent performance against Tyrone and then going out in the first round of the Qualifiers and totally undoing it.
“We have to put this behind us. I know Sunday was a defeat but you have to bring yourself back down to a certain extent, treat whatever opposition we have next with the respect they deserve and try to put up another good performance to get a result because ultimately that’s what we are after.”
McKaigue said there was no consolation to be gained from having pushed last year’s All Ireland finalists to the wire and was left to regret that Derry could only maintain their lead for 60 seconds before McCurry struck.
“Had we even held on to that lead for maybe five minutes and just got ourselves some bit of respite but it took so much effort just to get into the lead and the fact that we gave it away inside a minute was very disheartening,” admitted McKaigue
“As soon as they got the goal, they tagged on a point or two and it was very difficult to raise ourselves again, to come back from that position again. We were four or five down in the first half and to be constantly trying to chase takes an awful lot out of you.
“When you do get back and then fall behind, it is that bit harder to get back up to pace again.
“There’s no substitute for experience and Tyrone, if you look at their panel compared to ours, there are a lot more Championship appearances. When you have men who are seasoned Championship performers coming off the bench, they can really drive a team home and to be fair to their substitutes, they really did make the difference in the end.
“You only get that through experience and you can only get experience by playing and winning games. Hopefully now we can get a bit of a run going.”
With Paddy Campbell’s minors securing another minor semi-final for the county 24 hours earlier, the conveyor belt of Oak Leaf talent looks well stocked with McKaigue believing that success at underage level will stand to Derry in the coming seasons.
“There is no guarantee that it is going to come through but it is certainly looking promising; not to mention that the club scene is looking strong as well as St. Pat’s and the Convent in recent years in the Mac Rory and Hogan Cups.
“I think the right structures are in place in Derry. Perhaps we are starting to see a bit of the benefit of it there today through to the senior team.
“We have to keep plugging away at it, trying to win Ulster underage titles and bring as many of those lads through to senior grade as possible because there’s no substitute for winning and if you are winning at underage grade, it can carry through.
“Hopefully over the next few years, we can start to develop those players into strong county footballers.”