WHEN Damien Cassidy opened his post-match press conference with a joke it said everything about the importance Derry attached to claiming the Division One title yesterday.
Losing managers are expected to frown, to harrumph. Solemn shakes of the head are usually de rigeur but the Derry manager’s breezy mood evaporated when asked if he was disappointed at the “manner” of the defeat.
“The manner of the defeat? Do you think it was a bad defeat? I don’t know. There are different types of defeats. Championship defeats are bad defeats. Leagues are not bad defeats because our games are about championship football. The game itself, when you come to Croke Park you definitely want to win it, make no mistake about that, but I was always quite clear about what we needed to achieve in the campaign.
“We wanted to develop a strong group of players that we could change, so that if we got struck by injuries we would hopefully be able to cope with it. With that in mind, we introduced nine new players onto the panel at the beginning.”
Cassidy utilised 31 players in Derry’s spring campaign and that helped yesterday for a game in which they were missing Sean Marty Lockhart, Niall McCusker, Patsy Bradley.
Added to that was the fact that Eoin Bradley never left the bench and Paddy Bradley’s afternoon was seriously affected by blurred vision after a collision with brother Eoin which required a temporary substitution.
“I don’t know if we had been in a similar position last year that we would have been able to cope with those injuries,” said Cassidy.
“That came to haunt us in the championship last year so that is where the success of this campaign has been.”
Bradley’s afternoon was certainly unusual. He started brightly with two points, one from a free, but he was taken off and brought back on after the unfortunate clash with his own flesh and blood early in the first half.
“He took a bit of a bang, from his own sibling as it turned out. The two siblings having a good go at each other in the middle of the Croke Park garden like they did when they were youngsters.
“He had a bit of a blur in his vision but it cleared up shortly before half-time and that is why we introduced him. He was grand according to the doc.”
Derry clung on all the same. They were never more than a goal from parity until injury-time but they never once went ahead after Donncha Walsh’s ninth minute goal.
“It was probably there for us to push on shortly after the start of the second half. The goal was certainly a bridge that we could never close down,” said Cassidy.
“If we had perhaps got ourselves a point ahead in the middle of the second half it might have created an opportunity for us to push on but that never materialised.”
The win would have been welcome, and not because of the trophy but because it would have been a first win against one of the big two, Tyrone being the other, in three attempts.
“Kerry are up there along with Tyrone. They are seen as the top two teams in the country and the question is do we think we are good enough to push on and be here towards August and September.”
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