McGuckin: Derry is now a 'top team'

Ten years on from their last Ulster SFC title win, Derry are keen to rid themselves of the tag of 'Ulster's whipping boys' following a strong league campaign which ultimately delivered an unexpected Division 1 crown.

Defender Kevin McGuckin may have seen his dream of captaining a successful Derry side slip for now, after he handed over the mantle to Kevin McCloy earlier this season, but the Ballinderry clubman is still as determined as ever to give every inch for the Oak Leaf cause.

"We were delighted to win it and I think the team and the supporters needed some silverware. It gives everyone the belief," McGuckin said at the launch of the Ulster Bank Virtual GAA Roadshow, which will tour Ireland this summer.

"We weren't just happy for the players, but for the guys who follow you all around the country. All of the supporters now know we can compete at the top level with all of the top teams and that's a great boost."

It is straight back to earth for McGuckin and his colleagues following that league final win however, with club action last night and county training tonight.

"The celebrations were lively but now they are finishing up. We are back playing club games and have training (tonight) so the celebrations will be over and everyone will be back down to earth with a bump.

"We'll just have to knuckle down now for the championship."

Last year, Derry gained an impressive string of victories, but it was the qualifier series and not the heat of the Ulster Championship where they made most impact, and in the end no silverware was to be seen.

McGuckin is eager for his team to be rid of the tag of being 'a good back door team.'

"We have nearly made a name for ourselves as a good back door team - a good qualifier team," he said.

"I think we probably have the record for winning qualifier games. When there is nothing to show for it - no actual achievement and no actual silverware - it's disappointing."

However despite this mentality, McGuckin concedes that Derry's never expected to win the league outright and they just wanted to keep their heads above water to secure Division 1 status for next season.

"At the start of the year it wasn't our aim to go out and win the league. It was about taking it game-by-game and making sure we were safe - let's make sure we win our home games," he admitted.

"Then we got a few good results, beating Tyrone was a good result and then it was disappointing to be beaten by Galway but we knew it was down to the last game with Donegal in Donegal and it was a good test for us. When you get into a final you know that anything can happen."

There has been plenty of comment in the last year on Donegal's failure to build on their 2007 league success.

McGuckin insisted that complacency will not set in for the Derry panel this summer.

"Donegal were put up on a pedestal last year after winning the National League and were put up as favourites for Ulster and All-Ireland (success) - we learned from that.

"I think the lads are mature enough - Paddy Crozier (our manager) is obviously cute enough to know that, so we'll look at everything for the championship and we'll get ourselves right for the championship, for round one with Donegal and we know it will be a tough game."

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