By Michael McMullan
DERRY defender Brendan Rogers acknowledges that while his side’s league run-in is perfect championship preparation, taking their season game by game is the number one focus.
The Oakleafers take their 100 per cent record to unbeaten Roscommon on Sunday knowing that a victory could leave them with one foot in the promotion mix.
“It is not something we have thought about,” said Rogers of Derry’s collective message.
“Momentum in the league is so precious, you don’t want to keep your eye on something else and then fall by the wayside in the league. We have really been taking it game by game.”
Speaking during a weekend that saw Derry free from any competitive action, Rogers did admit their games with Roscommon, Galway and Meath would help the overall development of the squad.
“There is no better preparation for the championship,” he said. “It lets you know where you are at. The things you have worked on are being worked on against teams at the highest level.
“Those are the people that will challenge your tactics, your skill set, your decision making. All those things help fine tune what you are preparing for in the championship.”
Rogers speaks about the increasing attendances, a greater atmosphere with a league final appearance as another carrot for finishing in the top two.
“There’s a whole lot of learning that comes from the bigger games,” said Rogers, who has yet to play in Division One.
The Sleacht Néill man made his senior debut under Brian McIver in the 2015 Ulster Senior Championship. He didn’t play a league game until Damian Barton handed him the number three jersey for a 2-12 each draw with Meath the following season.
“The bigger games help you prepare for the championship,” Rogers added. “If there was a gap of eight weeks, you’d look to get a friendly with a top team.
“What’s the difference really; this gives us a more competitive edge that you can learn from going into the championship.”
The vibes around Derry since the win over Clare echo how this weekend’s trip to Hyde Park is the start of the business end of the season.
Away from the statement heard in interviews across the land, what does taking one game at a time actually mean?
“People maybe take it literally, that you drop down tools of everything you are doing and spend all your time moulding your team around the team you are going to be playing that weekend,” Rogers explained.
That’s the perception.
“You do train the way you want your team to set up. Yes, you do a bit of work on the team you are going to be playing at the weekend, but not to the detriment of how you want to play long term,” he continued.
There will be the marking assignments and how to set up to face the challenge in front of your face, but the long-term plan is also embedded.
“Your training in general is how you attack and defend and you are playing various scenarios that you won’t face at the weekend, but you will face in a couple of weeks’ time,” Rogers added.
The short term is about the next opponent, polishing skills and putting the best foot forward.
“Winning at the weekend provides the momentum and energy for your next session,” Rogers outlined.
“You can never look away and ignore it as if it is something that is not coming up.
“There is importance in that momentum and winning, in executing what you have been training and focusing on delivering at the weekend.
“Regarding the competition, you want to get the result you want and there is pressure in that.”
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