EVEN before being held to a home draw by Monaghan Derry knew the importance of winning their Group, insisted Brendan Rogers – because of the threat of Kerry.
The Kingdom's loss in Killarney to Mayo in their Sam Maguire Cup opener has increased the risk of defeat in the preliminary quarter-finals for those counties that only finish second or third in their sections, reckons the Slaughtneil man.
Indeed the versatile Oak Leafer was adamant that the extra match would be regarded as a burden by most teams:
"Look, no one wants to be playing in the prelim games, you want to be winning every game, or at least not getting beat in this instance. That's what you want to be, you do want to top the group, you do want to give yourself the most straightforward path.
"I guess it is not actually that handy playing in the prelims now that Kerry have lost their game, which could maybe change the dynamic of things a bit but, look, no team coming out is going to be a slouch.
"At the end of the day you are working with the top seeded teams in Ireland at the minute, in what is a very condensed period, so every game is going to be a challenge - but maybe for the bodies one less game would be desirable."
After that hard-fought 0-14 apiece draw with Monaghan in Celtic Park, the Ulster champions must now travel to take on neighbours Donegal in Ballybofey, before meeting Clare at a neutral venue.
Donegal defeated the Banner men in their first match, so will have some confidence, and the extra week's rest and home advantage are also factors going against Derry.
Rogers pointed to another, Donegal's defensive approach, but did also say that at least they are familiar opponents:
"Yeah, and the style they play, it would frustrate teams as well but that's what you are dealing with, we know what we are going to get when we play Donegal.
"Maybe that's a good thing. We are quite familiar with them and with a week's turnaround that's maybe not too bad, we can knuckle down early because we know a lot of their threats and play.
"But sometimes the next week gives you a bit of a bounce, gets something going and gets us back to the wheel again - and no better challenge than Donegal, a good team because that's what we want to be testing ourselves against all the time."
Derry looked quite flat against Monaghan but Rogers did not use their draining Ulster Final experience against Armagh as an excuse, preferring to praise the visitors' ability:
"You have to say all credit to Monaghan, that they knuckled down and knew what they were getting themselves into in a few weeks. That can also have its advantages as well, albeit you would rather be winning the Ulster Championship.
"Look, we are not saying it is a disadvantage in any way or that it hampered our preparations in any way for this game. We just didn't play our best but that's full credit to Monaghan and we get to learn from it for the next day…
"It is not as if we were naive enough to think Monaghan wouldn't come with some sort of bite, a bit of an edge. You cannot forget they are still a Division One side so they are no soft touches.
"They do have a broad range of panel and you look at the turnover of players that they managed to keep all the time, they were fit to bring on Jack McCarron, Conor McManus today so you know you have to be fully concentrated at all periods of the game.
"We knew it would be tight and we were probably lucky to get a draw."
Derry did show character, coming back from three points down to lead late in added time, before Karl O'Connell rescued a draw for Monaghan.
Rogers took solace from that final quarter push by his county, commenting: "Look, it is definitely not the place you want to be – but I know from too many experiences that when we have been in the position in the past we never clawed that back.
"That just shows there is plenty in this team and that we can dig out results maybe when we aren't playing our best and I guess that is one of the biggest learnings we have.
"We have something to work on for the next day and that gives us a bit of an edge."
Monaghan outscored Derry when the latter had an extra man, with Gary Mohan sin-binned for 10 minutes, but Rogers believes his team can benefit from that lesson:
"It is strange but those things happen. It really just depends on who gets possession first and they really dominated and moved the ball well.
"We did press up on them and tried to push a bit more on Rory Beggan because that would be the spare man but they caught us in behind a couple of times and it got away.
"It is very hard to scramble when you are pressing that high up the pitch. I suppose we did get caught and then they won the next kick-out and it helped them control the game a bit and that's exactly what you want to do when you are a man down.
"Look, it's something we get to look at. We haven't really been a man up too many times this year so that's another learning experience."