Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: Don’t pen the Oakleafers’ obituary

LAST weekend Derry lost their second game in a row under new manager Mickey Harte, a situation Mickey has found himself in many of times in his managerial career.

Back in 2008, Mickey left Páirc Esler having been beaten by Down and the obituaries were being scribed all across the country. Roll on a few months later and Harte was collecting his third Sam Maguire.

That’s the mad thing about football, maybe even society in general. It’s just so fickle, there’s so much begrudgery and hate, and there’s trash-talkers waiting around every corner looking to stick a knife in your back.

I remember a similar experience myself only a few years ago. Elements of the national media went after my coaching methods despite having never seen me coach, or even worse, having never been in the trenches themselves. As I would always say, it’s such an easy game from behind the wire.

In Division One, Derry finished top of the table with a +38 scoring average, averaging approximately 20 points a game.

This was against the top teams in the country, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, Galway, culminating in a pulsating encounter on Easter Sunday against Dublin in the National League final, again scoring over 20 points.

Derry under rRory Gallagher revolutionised the offensive side of the game to the extent that they deserve credit for actually ridding the game of the deep defensive block. Sitting in deep now and not contesting kick-outs won’t win you the big prizes. Handing these teams free possessions and allowing them to develop attacks uncontested will ultimately punish you in the long run.

Both of Derry’s defeats had a similar pattern to the first half. Derry started both games extremely well, but in both cases missed an enormous amount of chances and regardless of the quality of your team or the experience in it, consistently missing scores will eventually drain the confidence battery. Football is a game of confidence and that is at every level and Derry are no different,

Having conceded the soft goals in the manner they did against Donegal and sitting and stew on that for so long, then to lose so many important defenders pre-game to injury coupled with an early sending off to Gareth McKinless, it is very easy to analyse these two defeats as nothing more than a blip.

Harte loves a cause, he was superb at it with Tyrone. It’ll be no different with Derry. The media are writing them off and all the negative press being generated around them can only galvanise a group. This Derry team are far from finished.

They remain for me one of the best coached teams in the country. In Chrissy McKaigue and Conor McCluskey they have two of the best man-markers in the country but it’s the flexibility they possess that really stands out. Conor Glass can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder and equally his midfield partner Brendan Rogers can also perform a tagging role if needed.

Offensively in the last two games, the goals have dried up for Derry but I wouldn’t become too concerned by that. They are still offensively a really good collective unit, the depth, width, decoy running, cut movements, strike runners, variations in their attack is a joy to watch at times.

Add in the fact they have one of the best forwards in Ireland in Shane McGuigan and they are still going to have a big say in the championship.

I have a simple viewpoint on it all when it comes to coaching and implementing a game-plan.

Imagine two teams, both with different plans. Team A has a very intricate game-plan with some outstanding ideas, probably more innovative than Team B’s plan. Unfortunately, in Team A who have a better game-plan than Team B, only 70 per cent of the players accept the plan and buy into it.

Team B’s plan on paper isn’t as sophisticated or slick but they have a 100 per cent buy in and acceptance. There is only one team who will progress and see success.

Once you have players deviating away from their roles and doing their own thing then the ship will start to sink. I don’t think this is happening with Derry, I just think they have hit a form speed bump and it will only take one win to get that confidence back.

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