By Michael McMullan
DERRY manager Ciaran Meenagh accepts the tight turnaround time from Monday’s draw and says the biggest element of his side’s focus will be getting a performance in Croke Park.
Like champions Kerry, Armagh and Dublin, the Oakleafers will have to wait to see who they are paired with before honing in closer on their opponents.
Speaking minutes after Saturday’s win over Clare, Meenagh admitted the Oakleafers would be taking a look across the rest of the games to get some “spadework” done on familiarising themselves with whoever comes around the corner.
“The thing is, we might only have five days to prepare for who we play,” he said. “I would rather be in that position than having to win a number of games now to get there.”
The quarter-final draw, where possible, will keep teams apart if they met in provincial finals or in the round robin. In that regard, rematches with Monaghan and Donegal will be avoided if possible.
“I have been saying that all along,” Meenagh added, “I think it is a great thing because if you have too long to focus on an opposition you end up paralysing yourself by focusing on them.
“Then, when you lose the game, you end up looking back and (think) “what if we had played, if we had focussed on ourselves and got a performance out of ourselves.
“It (Derry’s preparation) will largely be…take a look at the others, get a feel for them, get a grá for them but it will be about getting a performance out of ourselves in Croke Park is the biggest thing.”
Meenagh admits their focus all along this season was about winning the McKenna Cup, then promotion before defending their All-Ireland title. With the Sam Maguire the only title left to compete for, Derry’s focus is now more short-term.
“Now, it is not about going on to win the last competition. It’s about going on to win one more game. I know it is a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason.”
Meenagh confirmed that All-Star defender Chrissy McKaigue missed the game as a precaution, but would be “good to go” for their crunch quarter-final and that Conor Glass was replaced against Clare, also as a precaution, after shipping a heavy knock late on.
Oisin McWilliams was back again on the panel but reserve goalkeeper Ryan Scullion is still nursing a hand injury. Otherwise, Derry will be picking from close to a full deck.
“That’s testament to Pete Hughes (conditioning coach). We don’t use as many players as a lot of other teams but we don’t have a lot of injuries either,” Meenagh summed up.
“That’s a testament to the physical condition the players are in and their durability and their ability to keep going relentlessly.
“With the help of God, if training goes according to plan, we’ll have a pretty strong bill of health.”