Conor Glass and Derry turn focus towards championship

Derry’s Conor Glass collects the Allianz GAA Football League Division One trophy after beating Dublin in Sunday's final at Croke Park. Picture: Mark Marlow
Derry’s Conor Glass collects the Allianz GAA Football League Division One trophy after beating Dublin in Sunday's final at Croke Park. Picture: Mark Marlow

LEAGUE champions Derry are now focussed on the defence of their Ulster title and the visit of Donegal to Celtic Park later this month insists captain Conor Glass.

With the next stage of the season around the corner, the Glen man still felt it was important to embrace their dramatic Croke Park Sunday when the Oakleafers needed a penalty shootout to see off All-Ireland champions Dublin in their own backyard.

“Our sole focus today was on Dublin,” Glass said, before reverting to championship mode.

“We haven’t really thought about Donegal to be honest, but, now, over the next three weeks, we can dive into it.”

Sunday was an energy-sapping and dramatic afternoon that tested Derry’s fitness levels and nerve to the last second.

Glass won the free in the first minute to help Shane McGuigan get Derry ticking. He added two points himself in the second half as Derry turned the screw on Dublin and held his nerve to nail his kick when the penalty shoot-out came into view.

Wearing a grin as wide as the glistening New Ireland Cup he clutched on his way out of the winners’ dressing room, Glass spoke of the enjoyable nature of the game, a perfect day for football and having a proper cut at the All-Ireland champions.

“We’ll enjoy this,” he said. “It’s not often you play in a National Final and beat the Dubs in their own patch.”

“We have to enjoy football as well, rather than just being robots and thinking about the next game.

“It’s a young team and not many of these players have played in a National Final, so we look forward to it (Ulster Championship) now.”

Derry have a training camp in Portugal to help hone their preparations for the visit of Jim McGuinness’ side and while they carved out six goal chances in their spell of second-half dominance, the fact they only took two of them is an area for focus.

“We thought we had the game won certain stages, and they (Dublin) clawed back into it, so it’s something to work on,” the skipper added before highlighting the efforts of his side.

“Lachlan Murray is just a breath of fresh air when he’s in there,” he said while also pointing how Paul Cassidy keep’s trucking away, week in and week out.

Glass, Cassidy and Ethan Doherty were all handed their debut by Rory Gallagher on the same night in 2020, a win over Longford in the first game after the Covid lockdown.

Cassidy has featured in all 55 of Derry’s games since. Aside from that continuity, there is a deeper look to the squad this season.

Matthew Downey was the 37th player used this year under Mickey Harte. Emmett Bradley made a return on Sunday after injury, Donncha Gilmore, Diarmuid Baker and Cormac Murphy have put their hands up.

“I thought Niall Toner was fantastic when he came on,” Glass said of Toner who has chipped in with 0-12 and one of six players to have featured in every game this season.

“He’s a quiet man in the team but he goes about his work. He would obviously love to be starting in the team, but to have him come on to the team is unreal.”

On the last play, Gilmore was swallowed up by John Small on the last play of normal time when Dublin were awarded a questionable free to level matters. Glass was in cajoling him before extra time.

“Yes, he might have made that mistake, but to be fair to him he had 20 minutes to make it up and he did,” Glass said.

“He’s been fantastic for us this year, I thought Lynchy (Odhrán Lynch) had a very good game today too, very cool calm and collected, and he’s a man for the penalties.”