Football

Derry must be better defensively against Monaghan in Ulster SFC semi-final, says Shane McGuigan

Derry's Shane McGuigan kicks one of his three points from play in a tally of 2-5 against Fermanagh in the Ulster SFC.
Derry's Shane McGuigan kicks one of his three points from play in a tally of 2-5 against Fermanagh in the Ulster SFC. Derry's Shane McGuigan kicks one of his three points from play in a tally of 2-5 against Fermanagh in the Ulster SFC.

A 12-point win away from home, a personal tally of 2-5, but Derry's Shane McGuigan insists they'll still have to improve for their Ulster SFC semi-final against Monaghan.

The repeat of last year's last four meeting comes after the Farneymen knocked out Tyrone with a late sucker punch goal in Healy Park, the type of score the reigning Ulster champions will have to guard against.

Derry conceded two goals inside four second half minutes on Saturday evening, both scored by Fermanagh full-back Che Cullen pushing right up, and Slaughtneil clubman McGuigan regretted those concessions, even though his county remained comfortably in charge:

"I think we can't be happy with that, to be honest. They were two high balls into the square and I think it is nothing other than down to our attitude.

"I think if those balls were coming in like they were in the first half we were dealing with them and I think we took the foot off the gas in the second half. It was just not good enough and the next day we know that we will need to be on it [defensively]."

Fermanagh full-back Che Cullen netted twice against Derry in Brewster Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Fermanagh full-back Che Cullen netted twice against Derry in Brewster Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin Fermanagh full-back Che Cullen netted twice against Derry in Brewster Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Indeed the 26-year-old suggested that Monaghan's experience at higher levels in recent years means they may well be favourites, despite Derry defeating them en route to provincial triumph last year:

"They're a Division One team, we'll probably still be going in as underdogs, which is fair enough. They've been one of the stalwarts of Ulster for the last 12 plus years, they've been the benchmark, and we're trying to put ourselves up there for as long as possible. They'll probably have a point to prove from last year. It's a challenge that we'll be looking forward to."

Derry's only loss so far this year was to Dublin in the Division Two Final, when they conceded four second half goals – but last year's captain Chrissy McKaigue was absent that day, while his successor as skipper, Conor Glass went off injured shortly after time, McGuigan noted:

"Exactly, I think the blow that Conor got in the second half did kind of take the wind out of our sails and then they got a goal straight afterwards, which kind of killed us.

"Thankfully we got them [Glass and McKaigue] fit [to face Fermanagh] and you could say the job was done with 10 minutes to go. They came off and got their rest so they will be wrapped up in cotton wool for the next 10 days to prepare for the semi-final."

Derry manager Rory Gallagher instructs his players at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Derry manager Rory Gallagher instructs his players at Brewster Park, Enniskillen. Derry manager Rory Gallagher instructs his players at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

Another player who barely featured against Dublin was Magherafelt lad Eoin McEvoy, but he starred against Fermanagh, earning warm words of praise from McGuigan:

"He has been phenomenal. He has done what Rory [Gallagher] asked, he just listened to him and took his learnings on board massively.

"Physically he has got himself into massive condition and he is one of the boys capable of coming up and breaking the lines.

"I know he had the job of man-marking Darragh McGurn, a big, physical lad, but pound for pound, Eoin was capable of sticking with him. And for a 20-year-old that is massive.

"He wasn't playing the last day and we needed more man-markers to step up and thankfully Eoin will be one we can depend upon for the next 10 years."

McEvoy's emergence into the senior side has meant McGuigan's club colleague Brendan Rogers can be released into a regular midfield role, where he is revelling:

"Definitely, I think a lot of people said Brendan was curtailed in the full-back line and he was held on a leash but he has that freedom now up the pitch. He is some operator out there and we are more than happy to have him out there and the threat he has for us going forward is massive."