GAA Football

Donegal defeat still painful: Derry ace Shane McGuigan

Shane McGuigan and Monaghan's David Garland. McGuigan has produced the goods in Derry's two Championship games Picture: Philip Walsh.

THE pain of last year’s last-gasp Ulster Championship exit to Donegal in Ballybofey still lingers among the Derry players, with star forward Shane McGuigan insisting they won’t be taking a backward step when the sides meet in this month’s mouthwatering provincial decider.

McGuigan was one of the heroes in the Derry side that toppled All-Ireland champions Tyrone on May 1, and the razor-sharp Slaughtneil attacker produced the goods again in Sunday’s emphatic semi-final win over Monaghan to set up a May 29 showdown with Donegal.

Across the two Championship games, Derry’s gifted full-forward has bagged 1-11, proving uncontainable, and bringing his season's tally to 2-44.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s semi-final win, McGuigan’s mind turned to last July’s heartbreaking provincial defeat to Donegal when Patrick McBrearty conjured a ridiculous winner in stoppage-time.

Rory Gallagher’s men fluffed their lines in Ballybofey that day, with McGuigan hacking at a couple of gilt-edged chances.

“That’s the thing about football,” McGuigan said, “there’s always another day and thankfully another day is in two weeks’ time.

“Look, there’s no point in sugar-coating it. A lot of people are still hurting from that day but Donegal are playing in their 10th final in 12 years.

“They are the kingpins of Ulster and they’ll be going in as favourites against us, but we’ll take no backward step, we’ll give it all we have and hopefully that’ll be enough on the day.”

McGuigan admitted he was slightly surprised at Monaghan’s defensive match-ups at the start of Sunday’s pulsating last four encounter at The Athletic Grounds.

Kieran Duffy has proven to be Monaghan’s best man-marker but Seamus McEnaney opted to put Dessie Ward on the Slaughtneil attacker.

The tactical decision backfired spectacularly. By the time Monaghan reshuffled their match-ups for the second half the damage was done.

“I was definitely thinking Duffy would’ve come out to mark me because I was watching the Down game [against Monaghan] and he marked Barry O’Hagan who was playing out and in, similar to myself,” McGuigan said.

“So, it was a bit of a surprise. I knew Dessie Ward would probably attack on me, so I did have to defend a bit more. But that’s part and parcel of the game now, it’s part and parcel of Rory’s game-plan. We have 15 attackers and 15 defenders so it made no difference in that regard.”

McGuigan was economy itself, scoring seven points from eight attempts.

Being Derry’s reference point in attack and attracting the best defenders to his side every time he plays is something McGuigan fully embraces.

“It’s not pressure,” he said. “I take it as a compliment. I said it before, some of the best of the opposition have been thrown in against me but I’m not sorry about saying it – I want to come up against the best players in the country.

“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and we’re slowly but surely doing that and I think we’ve a group of players who can go out and man-mark and play.

“We have that quality in the team. So, the more man-marking jobs that the other teams have to do on us the more the game will open up.”

Leading 2-7 to 0-6 at the break, Derry picked off enough points in the second half to dampen Monaghan’s comeback.

“We said it at half-time that Monaghan were going to come at us, they were going to squeeze us, pressure us to get turnovers. I lost two turnovers myself but there were a lot of personalities stepped up in the second half.

“Emmett Bradley ran basically the full pitch to score, Paul Cassidy’s points were massive and Benny Heron’s goal; a lot of people would have fisted that ball over at that stage. There were players that took the game by the scruff of the neck and that’s what saw us through in the end.

“I just feel relief and happiness,” McGuigan added.

“There was a lot of pressure in the county over the past couple of weeks after the performance we put in against Tyrone. There were a lot of people expecting a similar performance against Monaghan and it’s not something Derry has been used to over the last number of years.

“We’re certainly proving a lot of people wrong within the county and within the province.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football