CLEAR heads were key as Derry stuck to what they have been doing all year on the way to claiming a second successive Ulster title, according to Brendan Rogers.
The midfielder’s first half goal helped put Derry in control, but Armagh battled back and had the opportunity to win the game at the end of normal time when a Rory Grugan free dropped short, and then again as the Orchard moved two clear with two minutes left in extra-time.
Yet the Oak Leafs held their nerve down the stretch to take the game to penalties, where three Odhran Lynch saves – allied to converted efforts from Shane McGuigan, Conor Glass and Ciaran McFaul - ensured the Anglo-Celt Cup would be going back to Derry once more.
And, with Ciaran Meenagh named as manager for the game after Rory Gallagher “stepped back” from the role on Friday amid off-field allegations, Rogers insists the Oak Leaf players stuck to the same processes when the game was in the balance.
“We train with the philosophy that you become adaptable with your style of play,” he said.
“So the way we train is, you are giving yourself the opportunity to be malleable as to the way the game is played. The messages we were receiving from Ciaran are no different to what we were receiving from Ciaran all year.
“It’s no different, it’s a team, it’s a backroom team. Everybody has their own thing. Enda [Muldoon] is forward-orientated but he also can give defenders tips as to what forwards don’t like. So there are a lot of messages that go on.
“The instructions we had, we did a lot of detail on Armagh the week prior, so this week it was a bit of a down week to give ourselves a bit of energy so we were all very clear as to what we were doing as a team.
“We stuck together as a team and that’s what we deliver. We don’t have any noise outside of the camp. We like to train privately and we are comfortable to talk things through together. We do that regularly.”
Victory puts Derry into Group Four alongside Ulster rivals Monaghan and Donegal, as well as Munster runners-up Clare, in the All-Ireland round-robin, with their next outing a re-run of their provincial semi-final showdown with the Farneymen on the weekend of May 27/28.
Perhaps more significantly, though, they avoided the potential pitfalls of Group Two where Armagh now find themselves up against last year’s defeated All-Ireland finalists Galway, old foes Tyrone and Tailteann Cup champions Westmeath.
"I would be a liar if I said it would have been easy to go to Galway two weeks after losing that final,” said Rogers.
“It’s a very tough game, you have to pick yourselves up and prepare for one of the best teams in Ireland at the minute.
“Look, I can't say we have an easy group - it is almost like another Ulster Championship but that extra week does unbelievable things in terms of your recovery and preparation. It can freshen us up in terms of getting over a long day like today.
"You try to seed yourself in the best position possible. Nobody want to be in a 'bad' group should we say so, yeah, you obviously wanted to win Ulster and the prestige in Ulster is still there, albeit some other provincial finals weren’t as exciting as they should be.
“You don't turn your nose up at trophies.”