By Michael McMullan
THE hurt in the Derry minor camp after the Ulster final was accompanied by a feeling that there was a “big performance” in the side insists Johnny McGuckian.
Speaking after Saturday’s win over Cork, the Glen starlet spoke of the difficult conditions with the swirling wind and how the Oakleafers were “disappointed” to only hold a 0-5 to 0-2 interval lead.
“We felt we were playing with the breeze, but Marty (Boyle) had full trust in us that we were good at running the ball against the strong breeze,” he said.
Within 11 seconds of the restart, Ruairi Forbes had the ball over the bar and Derry were on their way to an eight-point lead by the 55th minute.
“When I saw three minutes going up (for stoppage time) and we were five points up, I knew they needed a goal to get back into the game and we didn’t look like conceding a goal,” he said of the realisation they were home and dry.
On the Tuesday night after their defeat to Tyrone, in selector James McNicholl’s video analysis briefing, the players “didn’t recognise” themselves and they went to work on getting their ship back on track.
“We had to strengthen up at the back and a lot of boys were hurting,” McGuckian said. “The game plan in the Ulster final was to be strong at the back
“Our game plan just went out the window and I think the occasion got to us. There was a lot of hurt and we knew there was a big performance in us.
“There was nothing stopping us, Marty said there was that look in our eye and we were getting over that line.”
Derry squeezed Cork at midfield and when the Rebels worked their kick-outs short, Derry stripped them of possession in the middle third with a relentless hunger.
“Marty said we needed dogs in this team and we have plenty of them,” McGuckian said, with a half-smile.
“Wee Fionn (McEldowney) in there, he kept going on his man and Danny (McDermott) was driving out from the back…with players like that it is easy to get up and down the pitch.”
Now Derry are one game away from an All-Ireland final. Before a ball was kicked, manager Martin Boyle asked the players if they wanted to be playing football in “late Juneearly July.”
“To man, we all said yes and it’s great now that we’re there.”