Derry’s Brendan Rodgers enjoying the journey and ready for Dublin clash

From Division Four in 2019 to winning Ulster titles and preparing for the Division One final, Derry’s Brendan Rodgers has seen it all.

The 2023 Player of the Year nominee has been one of the driving forces behind the county’s revival, as they take on All-Ireland champions Dublin on Sunday in Croke Park.

In a repeat of last year’s Division Two final, which Dublin ran out as winners hits four second half goals, Derry showed their mental strength to ensure it did not derail their season, as they just missed out on an All-Ireland final.

Having been part of a side which has achieved three promotions and back-to-back Ulster titles, Rodgers is happy to be part of this Derry side in an exciting time for the county, but is not taking anything for granted.

“I am 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.

“We were there on merit. I guess one of the good things about it is that we knew where we were at. We knew we would have to get out on merit, to develop that level of consistency, to improve.

“That is what has been the good thing about it, the enjoyable part of the journey for us: when you know you’re putting in the work, you can see the progression. We are making steps along the way.

“It keeps you grounded, to let you know that you can always go back there, just as quick again. That is a good motivating factor for anyone.

“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.”

As Rodgers knows all too well, success for Derry did not come overnight.

From success at club level for Glen, who won a senior All-Ireland title this year, to players from the successful U20 and minor squads making the step-up to senior, the blocks for success have been building.

In the league, this has been seen, with the core players who have been part of this journey in the last five years, combining well with the younger players making their mark.

“The profile of player has come in with a winning mentality.

“We just grew year-on-year since. The likes of Lachlan Murray, Matthew Downey, Eoin McEvoy, Donnacha Gilmore from that last All-Ireland minor team have now stepped in too. You can see players grow over time.”

“So, it is a multi factorial thing. The original group, getting out of Division Four, added to those guys coming in, it has helped boost us a little bit more.

Under Mickey Harte, Derry have wasted no time in settling, with their only defeat in the league campaign coming to Dessie Farrell’s side.

The former Tyrone manager, who has won two All-Ireland titles, will be aiming to make his own legacy at Derry, which made headlines when he took over as manager after a two-year stint with Louth.

Having once been an arch rival of Derry, Harte has made a big impression on the team, and Rodgers hopes his success can be implemented into this Derry team.

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

“So, to keep that winning edge it is in his personality. 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.

“Once you get it, you get to see it, and obviously they get their hands on the players in general. The quality then starts to show, it is exciting for us, now, definitely.”


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