Harte fully checked into Derry’s Croker test

By Michael McMullan

SECONDS into his post-game comments following Sunday’s win over Roscommon, Derry manager Mickey Harte set the scene for their league final showdown with Dublin this weekend.

With news of the All-Ireland champions posting 5-18 against his native Tyrone, Harte used the ‘J’ word.

“Any day you get to the Division One final, you’re doing okay,” he replied when asked about his team’s consistency at winning all but one of their 11 games this season.

The one defeat came at the hands of Dublin earlier this month when Derry elected to make seven changes for the game after securing their top flight status in Salthill six days earlier.

“Unfortunately, you see the new juggernaut that’s coming down the other side,” Harte said of Sunday’s opponents in the Croke Park showdown.

“We have to go there and see how you can manage to play against them this time again. We didn’t do great here up in Celtic Park.

“In Croke Park, it probably won’t be any easier, but it’s great to be in the final and to be in the final, you had to be consistent and we were consistent across the seven games and that’s why we’re going next week for a final.”

The teams met in last year’s Division Two decider with the Dubs hitting Derry for four goals after a first half where so much had gone right for then Oakleaf boss Rory Gallagher’s team.

They lined out without Chrissy McKaigue and Eoin McEvoy before losing Conor Glass to a hamstring tweak in the lead up to Dublin’s first goal.

When the sides met in this season’s clash, Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton pulled the strings in a 1-16 to 1-11 defeat when Shane McGuigan was Derry’s only proper shining light.

Since then, Derry had spells of control in their wins over both Mayo and Roscommon. When Conor McCluskey hit the net after 42 minutes in Castlebar, the Oaks were nine points clear.

Cruising? They should’ve been until Mayo’s direct game turned things upside down until Derry conjured a spell of assurance to seal the game.

It was the same on Sunday in Celtic Park. Had three goals chances – at vital times – gone Roscommon’s way, it could’ve been a dogfight rather than their 1-11 to 0-1 waltz in the last 30 minutes. The same won’t do on Sunday and Harte knows it.

“That is good that you can turn on a higher level of performance when it’s needed,” he said of his side upping the ante during a game.

“There are days you can do that and there’s other days you won’t quite get away with that,” he stressed.

“You need to be more consistent and playing at a higher level across the whole game, so you know we have to learn as we go as well. Obviously, next week, (against Dublin) the level of our performance for the first 40-45 minutes wouldn’t leave us in a very good place.”

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