We have to aim for Croke Park!
Derry's Neil Forester believes an All Ireland Quarter-final spot must to be the target as the Oak Leafers continue their Qualifying campaign with a tough second round tie against Meath at Owenbeg on Saturday (2.30pm)
The Steelstown player acknowledges Mick O’Dowd’s ‘Royals’ will be a step up from the first round victory in Louth but claims a second qualifying win would represent real progress as Derry seek to rebuild their season following the Ulster Championship defeat to Tyrone.
“Everybody was hurting after Tyrone,” explained Forester, “but that wasn’t the real Derry. No one was happy with what we showed at Celtic Park that day and it was only about getting a win against Louth. It didn’t matter how we did it, we just needed to win because we were in a bit of a slump where we couldn’t win a match.
“We knew we were far better than what we had been showing but we ground out a result against Louth showing character and fight, qualities we will need again this week.
“We disappointed ourselves and the fans against Tyrone but Louth was an improvement. We now need to win this weekend to try and get some momentum. Our aim has to be the quarter-finals in Croke Park.”
Meath accounted for Louth in the Leinster Championship before succumbing 0-21 to 0-11 to the Dublin juggernaut and Forester believes both teams will know plenty about each other having already drawn a Division Two fixture this season.
“We have watched replays of the Dublin game and have obviously played them in the league. They also played Louth before us which is quite convenient in that we have some insight into what we can expect.
“They have some good half-forward runners and a big midfield so we know we need to close out that area.
“They are not afraid to try a few long balls in either. They caught us out twice in the league with long balls, one which went directly into the net and a second which broke kindly for their forward to finish. Those were two soft goals we gave away that day. We were frustrated we didn’t come away from the league game with the points.
“Against Dublin, they showed an ability to mix it up with players like Eamonn Wallace and Cillian O’Sullivan able to break forward at pace.”
The Derry half-back picked out Meath free-taker, Michael Newman, as a major threat and insisted Derry cannot afford to give the dead-ball expert any opportunities.
“Discipline will be key. In the Dublin game, Newman scored some wonderful frees. He punished Dublin from almost any scoreable free they conceded, so we have to be aware of that
“This is a step up for us. No disrespect to Louth but Meath are a Division Two side. The fact we drew with them in the league earlier in the year proves there is not a lot between the sides. They defeated Louth in the Leinster Championship by the same margin we defeated them in the Qualifier, so all things point to this being a close game.”