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17th Jul 2023

“We felt the commentary that was out there gave us an opportunity to strike where it was unexpected.”

Niall McIntyre

Ciaran Meenagh says that along with his Derry players, he was in a state of shock after their loss to Kerry.

The Oak Leaf men may have been written off on the outside, with many envisaging the traditional Dublin-Kerry final, but Meenagh didn’t buy any of that commentary.

First things first, he didn’t even hear it.

That’s because, as soon as he took over from Rory Gallagher two and a half months ago, the former Tyrone player deleted social media off his phone. He stopped reading the newspapers.

He lived inside the bubble of the Derry senior football panel, and dedicated himself wholly to leading them to an All-Ireland title. They may have fallen at the second last hurdle but the general consensus is that they gave some account of themselves.

In fact, Meenagh said that this disregard of Derry’s chances emboldened the team – and gave them a chance to come in hard with the shock-factor. They certainly seemed to shock Kerry in a sublime first half that ended with them leading by three at the break.

“Since I took on the role ten weeks ago, I’ve deleted social media off my phone,” Meenagh said after the game.

“I don’t read the papers. The commentary that’s out there is out there, it’s probably warranted enough.

“But we felt the commentary that was out there gave us an opportunity today, an opportunity to strike where it’s unexpected.”

“We were very confident coming into the game, we felt we were going to win it, we thought we had the tools,” he continued.

“We felt we had the players to take out a lot of their key threats and to contain some of the others that are almost impossible to contain on the best of days.”

Kerry eventually overwhelmed the Ulster champions in the second half, but a devastated Meenagh spoke honestly and articulately about perspective afterwards.

“The word I used to the players in the changing room is a word I have used a lot in the last 10 weeks. The word is perspective.

“We beat Offaly 24 months ago in the Division 3 final. So you have to take into account where we came from, where Kerry were at that time, where Dublin were.

“Look at the trajectory we are on. As devastated as I am, as gutted as I am, look at where we came from.

“I started with Derry in 2019. We were in Division 4. We were going to Fraher Field. We were down in Wicklow.

“But look at where the team that has come in a short period of time. There are a lot of players in that changing room who played Division 4 football, so for every county in Ireland, I think Derry is a great example of a team that commits to each other, gets their house in order and does things right over a period of time.

“We give great hope to everyone else as well.”

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