By Michael McMullan
IT took 24 years for the Anglo Celt Cup to make a return to Derry and Brendan Rogers feels ending their losing streak in Ulster was huge for the group’s development.
The Oakleafers put their title on the line against Monaghan in Saturday’s semi-final, a repeat of last season’s last four won by the Derry men.
Going into last year’s Ulster Championship, Derry hadn’t won a game in the competition since a one-point win over Down in 2015, Rogers’ debut and last season brought a lot of confidence to a squad hungry for success.
“That was a big monkey on the back for us that we hadn’t got over the first round in a long time,” Rogers said.
“We had no momentum and now we have it so we want to keep it going. Once you get that belief of being competitive against those better teams, it gives you a better inning to a game. Your preparation is a lot more positive.”
Rogers didn’t play at minor or u-21 level for Derry before being called by Brian McIver on the back of performances in Sleacht Néill’s campaigns across Ulster and beyond and he hails the input of the younger brigade.
On the day he made his senior debut, Derry minors – with Conor Glass, Shea Downey and Shane McGuigan on board – beat Down on their way to the county’s first Ulster title in 13 seasons. The underage conveyor has continued and Rogers likes what he sees dropping off the other end and into the senior setup.
“Belief is probably the big thing,” he said of the change in recent seasons. “That is the nature of having a young squad of players coming through who have no baggage of anything that came before.
“They were winners as well and that all builds in itself. That’s the kind of environment we are trying to develop.”