'It was more important for us to win that game than Dublin': Derry boss Mickey Harte

Allianz Football League Division One Final: Derry 3-18 Dublin 2-21 (aet; Derry win 3-1 on penalties)

Derry celebrate after the Allianz Football league Division One final
Derry celebrate after the Allianz Football league Division One final at Croke Park, Dublin. Picture Mark Marlow (" ")

FEAR of failure drove Dublin to keep fighting to the bitter end – but Derry boss Mickey Harte insisted that his players were even more determined not to lose this thriller.

The Dubs were the team that refused to lose, cancelling out four-point deficits late in normal and extra time, before Derry deservedly saw them off by dominating the penalty shoot-out 3-1.

However, Harte made clear that the Oak Leafers were not going to accept anything other than victory, declaring: “I think it was more important for us to win that game than Dublin.

“We needed the ultimate win more than them because it was going to be a case of ‘We put up a good fight but the experience told in the end, the quality of the champions told in the end’.

“So that’s what you were going to have to look at and listen to if we hadn’t made it.”

Rather than being labelled ‘chokers’, Dery could clear their throats and sing their tunes of glory.

Derry manager Micky Harte
Derry manager Micky Harte after the Allianz GAA Football League Division One final win over Dublin. Picture Mark Marlow (" ")

Anything other than a Derry triumph would have been a travesty, as two-goal centre half-back Eoin McEvoy inspired them, but they did look like they’d thrown the victory away twice – at least.

“I probably had it won more than twice,” said Harte. “We might have won it four times across the game. You can say that of course, but if Dublin hadn’t the resolve to come back and challenge you again…

“We felt we had the game won three or four times, but you don’t have it won if you haven’t put away the opposition – and we hadn’t put them away. They were determined and skilful enough and had enough resilience to come back and say ‘We don’t be put away easy’.

“That’s what we found out today: you can’t beat Dublin and believe it’s a job you can do with 10 minutes to go, or five minutes to go – or one minute to go!”

The benefit from beating the best, and in such dramatic fashion, will surely boost Derry for the future, believes Harte:

“It has to be good for confidence building for our players. They have done plenty in their careers but to win a major title like that in an epic encounter has to stand to them because it’s great experience banked for them.

“They mightn’t always be able to take the best use of it but they know they have it, they know they have been to places that are difficult and came out of them doing well.”

Harte acknowledged that leading Derry to their first national top level title since 2008 was personally pleasing, given the pressure on him to succeed on the biggest stages after their back-to-back provincial titles:

“It’s very good. It’s excellent. We were taking over a team that had performed very well and had a lot of quality, had built up that status over the last number of years. We certainly didn’t want to bring them back. What we’ve done to date is maybe a sign that we’re bringing them forward a little bit.”

Typically, though, the veteran manager was already turning his attentions to the next challenge – an Ulster derby against the new Division Two champions, Donegal:

“Now, it’s a fine line between winning that and using it positively for the future or it being a noose around your neck to say ‘You’re the Division One champions, you beat Dublin, Ulster should be your oyster’.

“We can’t even begin to think about anyone other than Donegal at this moment in time. We’ve got that cup now, that title set aside.

“It has to be all focus on Donegal because if you’re not prepared and play as well as that then it’ll be an anti-climax in the first round of the championship.”