Newcomer Gilmore thankful of support

By Michael McMullan

DONNCHA Gilmore is one of six players to have played every single minute under Mickey Harte so far as Derry qualified for Saturday’s McKenna Cup final with Donegal.

A member of Derry’s All-Ireland minor winning crop of 2020, the Steelstown man is thankful of the support he has received from the core of senior players.

Speaking after Saturday’s 0-17 to 2-7 semi-final win over Armagh, Gilmore – a member of UCD’s Sigerson Cup team – said inter-county senior football is a step up in terms of speed and physicality.

“Also, playing for 70 minutes is new to me and it is tough to last through that without burning out,” said Gilmore,

“Having other boys around you, to keep you in check, the boys that have been on the team for a good number of years, they look after you,” he added.

Gilmore is one of seven players to have been handed their debuts in the McKenna Cup and he joins clubmate Diarmuid Baker, Paul Cassidy, Conor Doherty, Eoin McEvoy and Paudi McGrogan who have played every single minute so far.

After a fruitful underage career and having to battle back from cruciate and shoulder injuries, his times in with the seniors has opened his eyes to the level of application and support.

“It is a help and being on the pitch with them,” Gilmore said of being welcomed in by the established members of the squad.

“You can see why they are back-to-back Ulster champions and why they have been in an All-Ireland semi in the last two years. Having them on the team really helps you get through matches.”

It has been a busy spell for Gilmore who also played 49 minutes of UCD’s Sigerson Cup win over ATU Galway and scored a goal on Tuesday night to help see off an Ulster University team that featured Derry teammates Niall Loughlin and Ben McCarron – the latter of whom is also from Steelstown.

Now it will be about getting the head around preparations for Saturday and a match against a Donegal side who have been in fine scoring form under Jim McGuinness on his return to the hotseat.

Gilmore agrees with Harte’s stance on the McKenna Cup and its value in developing players.

“Mickey always says you will perform best under pressure,” Gilmore said. “You are not going to get any more pressure than being in a semi-final or a final of a knock-out competition.

“A knock-out competition is the way to improve and get real life experience.”

As one of the four Steelstown players to have pushed into the Derry squad, Gilmore said the “spike” in interest since the club’s All-Ireland run of two seasons ago has helped lift the level of interest in the game in the city.

“With us on the team, it’s a huge milestone for the club with four boys and that has never happened before,” he said.

“It is an honour for us, for Steelstown and it is a huge privilege for us four boys to be on the panel.

“We don’t take it for granted and any time you get the chance to go out and put a Derry jersey on, it’s a privilege.”

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