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    ‘What that does for the lifestyle of the people in your county, your community, it’s unreal’

    WHILE most of the Derry players swiftly sought refuge in the Clones changing rooms after Conor Glass had lifted the Anglo-Celt, Brendan Rogers couldn’t help but savour smiles on faces in the sea of red and white all around.

    Now in his ninth campaign with the Oak Leafs, the Slaughtneil ace has seen enough bad days in county colours to appreciate the good when they come around. Last year, leading Michael Murphy a merry dance as a 24-year wait for provincial glory was ended, those memories might never be bettered.

    But the moments after Sunday’s success felt special in their own way, staring up from the mouth of the tunnel into the stand, that constant reminder of how the elevation of Derry’s fortunes on the field impacts those who follow wherever they go.

    “It is very important,” beamed the 29-year-old.

    “I was about when Derry were unsuccessful there very recently and it is an unbelievably lonely place – no-one was even talking about the games then, but now you see kids coming about.

    “I had something like 18 kids call to my door yesterday asking me about the game; how’s Derry football going? Will you come out and play with us in the park? All those kind of things. That’s what this is doing for kids in the area – it’s getting them out, getting them off social media, getting them off the Xbox.

    “It sounds so small but what that does for the lifestyle of the people in your county, your community, it’s unreal. And it’s happy days that it gets back to the supporters who follow it… that’s special.

    “Doing back-to-back titles is obviously very difficult in Ulster, given the calibre of the teams in it… we are aware it is special and maybe it is me showing my age, you are totally aware [of what it means] but it only happens the more we stay focused.

    “It only happens if train well, it only happens if we work hard so we have to keep our end of the bargain to get that support out all the time.

    “If you start losing or getting into bad habits, it just doesn’t happen, you don’t get the support and we love it – we love seeing everyone out.”

    Rogers had been a nervous bystander minutes earlier when an intense end-to-end battle was settled on penalties, Odhran Lynch saving from Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent and Ethan Rafferty to tip the balance in Derry’s favour.

    Club-mate Shane McGuigan, Conor Glass and Ciaran McFaul successfully converted their kicks, though Rogers smiled when asked if had fancied playing a part in the penalty drama.

    “Raging,” he said.

    “I wasn’t picked against Down in the McKenna Cup and I wasn’t picked again today – I have to step up in training and show my worth.

    “I said to those fellas, that we are backing them 100 per cent. Pick what way you want to go, take your shot, whatever happens, happens. But we back you 100 per cent. That’s the way we approach our game-play, we are in it together.

    “Although it’s an unbelievably lonely place, they have the comfort of knowing that their team-mates are behind them regardless of what happens. I am every bit as proud of Paul Cassidy for taking a penalty as I am of Lynchy for saving them. That’s the nature of it.

    “You win together and you lose together. But unbelievably proud of Lynchy De Gea.”

    As with last year’s decider, Rogers played a significant part too, ghosting into the square and fisting home the game’s only goal in the first half of normal time as Derry edged the early exchanges.

    And, having added a further two points, the move from full-back to midfield has granted him greater opportunity to fulfil his attacking potential.

    “I guess that is maybe the way the game is.

    “We work on it at training, everybody gets shots. It’s not just forwards, the defenders have to shoot and the forwards have to tackle. We defend together and attack together and get each other into positions.

    “My shots were from the top of the ‘D’ and there was a fair amount of fortune in the goal… that’s the luck you need but you have to put yourself into the position that things can happen.

    “And defensively, you put yourself into the position that things cannot happen. That’s what we are trying to do all the time.”



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