By Michael McMullan
WHILE Derry manager Ciarán Meenagh accepts the “fair” opinion that his side may not be in Gaelic football’s very top elite bracket, the Oakleafers’ latest training window is aimed at giving a better account than their 2022 All-Ireland semi-final.
Speaking after their four-point win over Cork – and before being they were drawn against Kerry in Sunday’s week’s semi-final – he wore a face of contentment.
“It is nice to get back there,” Meenagh said. “We got promotion this year, we won the McKenna Cup, we were in a National League final and we won another Ulster Championship. I suppose there is a bit of commentary out there that Derry maybe aren’t amongst the elite teams. I think that is fair, but it was our job to get ourselves back into that last four again to do ourselves slightly more justice here in an All-Ireland semi-final.”
Derry controlled long spells in their 2023 semi-final clash with Galway before conceding three points after the break. The game began to slip away before two Damien Comer goals sealed their defeat. Meenagh revealed it was match footage they trawled through in a bid to find areas to improve on.
Twice in the opening few statements after their win over Cork, he mentioned the word relief. Despite, being red hot favourites for the game, the Derry camp zoned out from the outside noise.
Meenagh has checked out of his social media and doesn’t read the papers. Having a clinical view of their Cork game being “50-50” was the focus. The Rebels’ love for building on momentum and an aggressive kick-out press were the alarm bells in the Derry camp.
Getting Brendan Rogers to have the upper hand on Ian Maguire was another area. It was the same with Paul Cassidy kicking two points on Cork’s playmaker Mattie Taylor. Both Steven Sherlock and Brian Hurley were decommissioned by Chrissy McKaigue. Conor McCluskey ran at Sean Powter until he was replaced.
“It was a dangerous fixture coming into it with the momentum Cork had versus the rest we had, so overall it’s relief,” Meenagh summed up.