GAA Football

Derry can beat Donegal because they have finally prepared properly: Enda Gormley

Former All-Ireland winning Derry footballer Enda Gormley believes the current players have done the hard yards needed to win the Ulster SFC.
Picture Mal McCann.

DERRY legend Enda Gormley hopes that the current crop of Oak Leaf players will reap the rewards of their serious efforts so far when they meet Donegal in Sunday's Ulster SFC Final.

Donegal have dominated their neighbours for more than a decade, winning the last eight Championship meetings, including the 2011 provincial decider.

However, the Maghera man argues that Derry weren't ready to defeat Donegal on those occasions - but that they are now:

"To be fair to this squad, I wouldn't compare to them to the team of the past decade. I don't think too many people in Derry would argue that that team deserved to win.

"This team is completely different. By all accounts, from what I hear from our own club boys, they have worked ridiculously hard. It's easy to see on the pitch that they've worked very hard under Rory [Gallagher]."

Five of those losses were pretty close affairs, but Glen clubman Gormley makes no excuses: "I'm not sure Derry had done the preparation to beat Donegal in that run.

"No matter what happens, this Derry team has prepared like a real county team over the last two or three years. They deserve to be up there competing.

"You don't get anything handed to you, but from their effort level alone, I don't think previous teams would have put in the sustained amount of work in over a period of time to justify beating 'the big boys'.

"Donegal, for big parts of that time, were one of the big boys. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the back record.

"The only bit of history that might matter is Derry last year, where they had prepared properly going into it, could have won it - but didn't. I would just hope that they have taken a similar chip on their shoulder like we did in '92."

Derry lost that year's Ulster Final against Donegal (see feature, pp52-53), but bounced back to take both the provincial and All-Ireland crowns from them a year later.

Rory Gallagher has guided Derry into their first Ulster SFC Final since 2011, but Gormley is confident that they won't simply settle for getting back onto the big stage, but will be desperate to win Ulster for the first time since 1998:

"You would hope so. No matter what happens this year, you'd hope that it's not a one-year wonder. Solid foundations have been put in, there seems to be a lot of talent coming through, and hopefully they can come to fruition and this Derry team will be around for a while.

"Hi, you don't put the amount of work that these boys have put in and be happy with second best. They are competitive. A fair lot of them have won stuff at different levels: underage, schools, clubs.

"Those are very similar traits to the make-up of our team that came through, knowing what it is to win at different levels, you're hungry. They've the same sort of group that has pulled together and put a lot of work in.

"I always say that when you put in the hard yards, and it's two or three years that these boys have put in, that's where hunger comes from.

"You can imagine 'hunger' in your head, but everyone wanting to win more than anyone else? That normally comes down to the amount of work you've put in. I'd be very surprised if anyone has worked harder than this Derry team."

Another aspect that impressed Gormley was the mental strength Derry showed after shocking Ulster and All-Ireland Champions Tyrone at their Healy Park home.

After that astonishing 11-point win, the Oak Leafers recorded consecutive Championship wins for the first time in six years by beating Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final:

"That was my big worry going into the game. I had two contrasting views: one was 'I can't remember the last time Derry put back-to-back performances together'; to counteract that, I knew previous Derry teams hadn't prepared as well as this team to be able to do that.

"Thank God the effort level came out and they got the reward for the work they've put in. They obviously did get themselves 'up' because of their first half performance; there's a lot to work on in their second half performance, they went back a bit, but their first half performance was excellent, really outstanding."

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