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27th Mar 2024

“It’s a Division One title. Let’s call it what is is.” – Brendan Rogers

Niall McIntyre

Brendan Rogers is looking ahead he’s not looking back.

With Derry meeting Dublin in this Sunday’s Allianz National Football League Division One final, in what is a repeat of last year’s Division Two decider, it would be tempting to at least glance in the rearview.

But Rogers says to focus on the present rather than the past.

Derry were well beaten in last year’s show-piece, shipping four second half goals as Dublin cruised to victory but he says not to read into it.

Derry’s targets last year, from a League perspective at least, revolved around gaining promotion to the top tier.

He admits that in the final, with promotion already guaranteed, they may have taken their eyes off the ball.

“I think we’ve grown a fair bit since then,” the Slaughtneil dynamo insists.

“I’d be quite comfortable with saying that we’re probably in a good place to push on for these things and have a different approach at it,” he says.

“Our focus last year was about proving that we could do Ulster championships back-to-back. We had just wanted promotion to Division 1: those were our two key milestones.

“We were happy to play in a Division 2 final but it was irrelevant of the opposition,” he says.

Rogers understands the train of thought which would suggest Derry will be extra motivated this weekend, with aims of avenging last year’s loss to Dublin in Croke Park but he says they have enough internal motivation.

“I certainly can understand where you’re coming from but it’s certainly not our motivating factor.”

“I think representing ourselves and conducting ourselves in a Division 1 final is our main focus.

“Even take the defeat to Dublin earlier on this year.

“Would that be of big significance? No, I don’t think so. I think we wanted to focus on ourselves (at that stage) to get new blood into our squad, to grow our team for later on in the year.”

“It is Dublin and it is Croke Park and it is a home patch for them and all the rest, but I think we have enough internal motivating factors to go and win that game without it being a personal thing or anything like that,” he says.

Rogers’ intentions are clear ahead of this weekend, as Mickey Harte’s have been from the outset, that Derry want to win this competition. There has been some talk, on the back of the close proximity of the championship, that League finals are a nuisance and that teams don’t want to win them, but Rogers rubbishes such a notion.

Harte’s desire to win is something has impressed the Slaughtneil man.

“It’s a Division One title. Let’s call it what is is.

“A lot of people have fond memories of Derry winning one in 2009.

“Anyone that has won one, I think they’d all say it means a lot. And especially if a team hasn’t won an All-Ireland in their current group of players, they’d obviously take it.

“It’s very important. I don’t think any team can say they’re too good not to want to win a trophy in Croke Park, no matter what it is. So it’s definitely a one to look forward to.”

“Mickey is just a winner – you can obviously tell that from how he speaks and how he conducts himself,” Rogers replies.

“You feed off his energy, that way. I think everyone knew what Gavin Devlin would bring as a coach too.

“He was involved with Slaughtneil for a couple of years, he was involved with Newbridge for a couple of years. He has been in and out of Derry football a number of times.

“Everyone is familiar with what he can offer, with how good he has been. You only have to look at Louth and Tyrone, how they have been. You knew you were getting quality.”

24 March 2024; Brendan Rogers of Derry before the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Derry and Roscommon at Celtic Park in Derry. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sometimes Rogers has to stop and take it all in. Just five years ago, he was lining out for Derry against Leitrim in a Division Four final. He uses this as something to keep himself and the rest of the panel grounded.

“This is the possibility when you let things slip.

“It’s always good to reflect back and think that’s where you were. It keeps you grounded and lets you know that you can always go back there just as quick.”

“I’m unfortunately one of those guys that is privy to those days in Division Four when it wasn’t as pleasant to go to watch us,” Rogers reflects.

“For the younger lads that are lucky not to have seen it, you can give them that reminder – don’t get too far ahead of yourself. That is a possibility when you let things slip. It is a good motivator.”

Derry senior footballer, Brendan Rogers has teamed up with Allianz today to look ahead to the upcoming Allianz Football League Division 1 Final this weekend

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