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'We haven't overachieved, the talent has always been there'

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Fergal Doherty, Derry, fouls Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, which resulted in Doherty being sent off for a second yellow card offence

Fergal Doherty, Derry, fouls Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, which resulted in Doherty being sent off for a second yellow card offence

Fergal Doherty, Derry, fouls Aidan O'Shea, Mayo, which resulted in Doherty being sent off for a second yellow card offence

SHORT of pulling on a Superman T-shirt there wasn't much more that Mark Lynch could have done yesterday.

Shortly after rattling over nine points (five frees), the in-form Derry captain dashed back up the motorway ahead of his team-mates to be with his wife, who is due to give birth to their first child today.

TG4 may have given the man of the match award to Derry's excellent full-back Chrissy McKaigue, but many felt Lynch pipped him.

Not only did he score their brilliant penultimate point but the barnstorming Banagher centre-forward, who is playing the best football of his career, terrorised Mayo with virtually every touch and led his team like a colossus.

His swift departure wasn't the only late twist in the tale of Derry's dramatic 14-man victory over Mayo yesterday.

Only afterwards did it emerge that manager Brian McIver was suspended for their latest big win and had to watch it from the upper reaches of the Hogan Stand.

The Derry boss wasn't even allowed walk across the pitch to his match position after picking up a one-month ban for verbal abuse of a match official, related to their fourth-round defeat by Cork.

But, as with every other aspect of the Oak Leafers this season, there was another man ready to step into his shoes and maintain their exacting standards.

UMBRAGE

McIver's son Paul, one of their selectors, filled the 'bainisteoir' role yesterday and immediately took umbrage at several words that have been applied to the team.

"We were annoyed that people said that we sent a second string down to Mayo last week," he revealed.

"We don't have a second string, this is a panel of players. Every single one of them is equally as good and we found it a wee bit disrespectful to the rest of the players."

Derry have certainly proven themselves a 'second-half team' this year and, with six subs, continued that trend yesterday against all the odds, after losing Fergal Doherty to a red card before the half-hour.

McIver Jnr also took offence at the notion that last year's Division 2 champions have already overachieved by making successive league finals.

"Overachieved? You in the media might think that but I wouldn't say that we have over-achieved," he retorted.

"We are just going about our business the way we want to go. We set ourselves targets that we want to reach and we are getting there."

He insisted that Derry's quick progress demonstrates how little difference there is between the top two divisions.

His father's ability to instill self-belief into players is regarded as critical to Derry's progress and it was certainly like father, like son yesterday.

"The talent has always been there," McIver stressed.

"Over the last week the media have said that this Derry team doesn't have the capabilities of past Derry teams.

"But we would argue that we have a load of players with a lot of All-Ireland minor experience, a lot of Hogan Cup (schools) experience, and Chrissy McKaigue played in Australia and represented Ireland.

"We have some fantastic players."

Lynch, he said "has been an exceptional player for Derry since he was 16 and graced the All-Ireland minor final".

"Every night at training, he demands everything of the players," added McIver Jnr. "Mark won't ask anybody to do something that he wouldn't do himself.

"At half-time we knew if we could keep possession of the ball and break their half-back line, that we could win the game."

The collective and gutsy manner in which Derry kept their composure and refused to capitulate was in direct contrast to Mayo's latest defeat in their House of Pain.

Accusations of a Croke Park hoodoo will continue to haunt Mayo as long as they continue to lose like this.

A man up after 25 minutes and leading by three points after 50, they simply had to hold their heads and close this one out but bad decision-making, missed chances and lack of leadership saw them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and even manager James Horan couldn't explain it.

Once Donal Vaughan had a shot saved and Derry goaled from the counter-attack their composure deserted them.

"Yeah, we'd a good goal chance and we made a hames of it and the longer that game had gone on, Derry would have won by more," Horan admitted, rubbing his head with his hands in open frustration.

DISAPPOINTED

He said that any team "at any age-group" would have been disappointed to concede Derry's second goal.

It was the 16th that Mayo have conceded in this league and Horan conceded "it's a big problem for us, when we're getting a bit of momentum in games we're conceding very soft goals and confidence takes a bit of a hit then.

"Our work-rate and preparation must have been a little bit off today because we were flat in a number of things, we need to have a serious review," he conceded, with their championship opener against New York just three weeks away.

"It's not training that would have players that flat. Maybe our prep was off, we need to look at what we're doing and trying to do.

"We need to correct this and quickly but we will, we will," he insisted mournfully.


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