Brian McIver has dismissed as irrevelant his inside knowledge on Donegal from his time as the Donegal manager as a factor in Sunday’s tie.
The Ballinderry clubman managed Donegal for three years from 2006-2008s. And in that time he guided Donegal to promotion from Division Two and the county’s one and only Division One National League title, in 2007.
“The great percentage of my team are still there and playing away. They will know my approach and equally I will know their approach but I would like to think I have moved on in five years and I have no doubt they have as well. No, that will be totally irrelevant on Sunday,” he insisted at last Thursday night’s Derry press briefing at Owenbeg.
Instead the Derry boss is expecting a tough hard fought typical Ulster Championship encounter with little between the sides at the final whistle.
And he was also equally dismissive of the suggestion on the back of his team’s good league campaign and run the Division One final, Derry will enter Sunday’s tie as favourites.
“Listen, whether you are favourites or underdogs in this particular clash - as in all Ulster Championship clashes - it is pretty irrelevant. It is going to be a typical Ulster Championship game. It will be tight and it will go to the wire.”
He reminded his inquisitors that Donegal go into the game on the back of a decent league campaign too, albeit it was in Division Two.
“Donegal had a good league campaign, okay, they got beaten in the Division Two final. We had a good league and got well beaten in the Division One final but that will have very little bearing on what happens on Sunday.
“We know ourselves this is going to be a massive game. If people want to make us favourites then fine, but as far as we are concerned we are playing the All-Ireland champions of two years ago and we are facing a mighty task.”
And the Ballinderry clubman is not passing any heed either on the rumblings of discontent coming out of the Donegal camp since the Division Two League final defeat to Monaghan.
“Not in the slightest,” was his response when quizzed on the topic.
“The performance against Monaghan, they were just back from a week’s hard work in the Algarve. I know what it is like in terms of getting your preparations right for any game. At that particular stage (the Division Two final), Donegal had achieved what they wanted to achieve from the league and thereafter their emphasis was placed solely on May 25th, so I would read absolutely nothing into the Monaghan game.”
As for his own team’s performance and collapse in the Division One League final against Dublin, he believes it was a combination of a reality check and just one of those days when nothing went right for Derry.
“We always knew that Dublin, in Croke Park was going to be a mighty test for us at our stage of development but the other side is we have no regrets about getting to a league final.”
And turning a negative into a positive the Derry boss insisted that while the defeat to the Dubs was a chastening experience, lessons had been learned.
“We learned more in that particular defeat than we had learned in all our victories up to that stage. From that perspective, it was great going into the championship and we have done a lot of work too over the past month.”
On the Donegal squad, and the likely line up, he does feel that the loss of Rory Kavanagh to suspension is a headache for his opposite number, Jim McGuinness. But he also insists that he is a little less sure about the absence of Mark McHugh.
“I have a lot of time for Rory. He is a very good athlete and a very natural footballer so we would be a loss to any side. The Mark McHugh one, listen, I don’t know what exactly has happened there but we know only too well the last controversy in Donegal - Kevin Cassidy wasn’t available and Donegal went on and won the All Ireland.
“We know only too well there will be 15 Donegal men plus another 10 or whatever ready to come in and change the game when necessary. Donegal are a very strong outfit and we will give them the level of respect they deserve.”
He also singled out the Donegal inside forward line of team captain Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty as a line that could cause his side bother if they were to receive a decent supply of ball.
“We know ourselves that Donegal have a number of marquee forwards like Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden, Patrick McBrearty; their inside line alone is going to take some marking but the other side of it is we have to prepare in terms of getting our own game right.
“But as I said, we learned a lot from the Dublin game and we have been trying to correct those things over the last couple of weeks and hopefully we have managed to do that before the 25th.”
That was an obvious reference to the league final pain inflicted by Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara, in last month’s Divison One decider, in Croke Park.