McGrogan makes half century on momentous day for Derry

By Michael McMullan

FIVE years on, Paudi McGrogan transformed from Ulster minor winning captain to getting his hands on an Ulster senior medal.

The Newbridge man made his 50th senior appearance for Derry in Sunday’s win over Donegal and is the only player to have played every minute of all 13 games under Rory Gallagher in all competitions this year.

After holding Michael Langan scoreless, McGrogan cemented his place as one of Derry’s most consistent performers.

“I never doubted it for a second,” replied McGrogan if he felt an Ulster senior title was a possibility.

“It took a big push, I didn’t realise how much it would take. I didn’t realise the level Donegal, Monaghan and Tyrone were actually at.

“To get to that level took a hell of a long time, but today is fantastic and we want more days like this.”

McGrogan expands on what exactly matching and overtaking the big guns looks like.

“There were probably players at a level the rest of the team just weren’t at,” he said of Derry’s squad, initially.

“Now, everybody is getting to the one level and we a team. That’s one thing we definitely weren’t. Now we are a unit and that means more than anything…a team is being together, no matter what.”

When Ryan McHugh notched a 42nd minute in Sunday’s final to open a 1-8 to 17 lead, it was the first time Derry were in arrears in this year’s Ulster Championship, but McGrogan insists that staying ahead was “never really” discussed.

“If you are going to win Ulster Championships, you are going to go to the wire a lot,” he explained. We went to the wire today and we found what we needed to find to get the result.”

When Odhran McFadden Ferry poked home Donegal’s goal in the first minute of the second half, the sides were level.

“You have to get yourself back and regrouped again and we did,” McGrogan explained.

“We went a couple of points down at a stage and you just get yourself back. You find a way, that’s all you can do.”

It was a game played in front of a bumper attendance, awash with colour and an electrifying atmosphere, but it was all about playing his own game for McGrogan who also felt Derry’s relative championship inexperience never entered their thoughts.

“It’s a young group, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t achieve. We are never going to get any younger, so we’ll put shoulder to the wheel and keep on going,” added McGrogan who called Derry defensive duo Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers as “natural winners”.

McGrogan echoed the sentiments of skipper McKaigue’s acceptance speech.

“You just have to look around you and listen, that’s what it does for the county,” he said.

“They’re crying out for success, but we need them all the time now.”

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