Brian McIver admits Derry got exposed by big occasion

Manager quick to look ahead to opening championship game against Donegal

Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll fails to block a shot from Emmett McGuckin of Derry during the National Football League Division One final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho.

Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll fails to block a shot from Emmett McGuckin of Derry during the National Football League Division One final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho.


After this 15-point thumping, Brian McIver deemed his sideline suspension served. The Derry manager walked onto the Croke Park pitch and addressed some understandably shell-shocked players.

He gathered them into a tight, binding circle and spoke in what certainly looked impassioned tones, only breaking the chain when Stephen Cluxton made his fourth climb up the Hogan steps to collect a trophy.

McIver immediately stopped talking and listened. Each Derry footballer turned to witness the growing might of the best team in the land.

“Coming to play against the All-Ireland champions, the league champions . . . we knew we were going to learn a lot about ourselves today.” That was his opening gambit.

“One thing we learned after 35 minutes was we got totally overawed. We gave Dublin a start you cannot really afford to do.

“Look, listen, we always said this season was going to be a learning experience for us. Hopefully what we learn today we can put it to good effect over a period of time.”

It was over so quickly that the wonder is if Dublin learned much at all. Without ever having to reach the intensity needed come the summer, they raced into a 0-10 to 1-0 lead, rapidly erasing Cailean O’Boyle’s sixth-minute goal.

“You give the ball away as we did against Dublin, umpteenth times as we did in that first half and every time we got turned over they worked a score from it. When we did create chances at crucial stages we didn’t take them.”

They did, in fairness, create goal chances. Only to horribly miscue. “Now, hands up, Dublin created goal chances as well.

“For a period in the second half we started to play our own game very, very well and then Bernard Brogan hits a thunderbolt and the game by and large was over.”

Rewind a little. Overawed, you say, by what exactly?

“That’s hard to say, whether it was the occasion or the fact Dublin really clicked and everything was working for them but it is very hard to put an experienced head on young shoulders. We were aware that we were exposing a lot of young lads to a big occasion here today.”

‘Hard to judge’
They have scars now. The worst thing about this performance, for Derry and McIver in particular, is they learned nothing of Dublin. Failed to make them bleed. “We weren’t able to put them under any pressure today. And that’s what you want to do to them. We simply didn’t turn up in the first half so it is very hard to judge how good Dublin were.”

McIver was in the stands throughout. Suspended for an incident with a referee against Cork. He can grasp at that. He wasn’t there.

“We got cleaned out at break ball, they were clean catching around the middle of the field. Once Dublin get up that momentum it is very hard to stop.”

This was a little too sanitised. “Hands up,” was McIver’s defence in this ever so light trial by media, “You got me.” There was a little digging into the tactical plans McIver gave his players. It was suggested that tephen Cluxton was given free rein with his short-range kick-outs. This, it’s well known, is where Dublin initiate their attacks.

“We thought that we had our homework done pretty well in terms of Cluxton but he is the master at picking the men whenever they find a yard or two of space. We thought we had him reasonably well covered with our game plan but on the day it didn’t work for us.”

‘Real test’
McIver wasn’t being blasé. All that matters, all that ever mattered in this year is how they go at Celtic Park on May 25th. On yesterday’s evidence against Monaghan, Donegal are hardly in the greatest shape themselves. “This was going to be a real, real test for us. As good as two or three training sessions and we have learned a lot coming out of that and heading into the 25th of May.

“I wouldn’t like to think we’ll give the ball away as much in Celtic Park on the 25th of May.”

May 25th being the start of the championship for them and when the league is immediately forgotten.

Fractured and a little humiliated, away go Derry until that date when Donegal will seek to break them clean.

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