“This is Derry’s best chance of getting into an All-Ireland final and winning it” – Oak Leaf legend Johnny McGurk

When it comes to Derry football and All-Ireland semifinals, few men enter the psyche of the GAA fan more than All-Ireland-winning defenseman Johnny McGurk.

18 years before Kevin Cassidy, the famous Donegal half-back, scored the memorable last-second goal against Kildare and sent the Tír Conaill men to the 2011 All-Ireland semifinals, McGurk (coincidentally another famous half-back) did the same for his native Derry — an infamous last-minute point from his left shoe to send Oak Leaf County into only their second All-Ireland final.

“That semi-final was probably the greatest feeling I’ve had in my football career, not only because I scored the winning point in such a close game, but also because the atmosphere was incredible. It wasn’t really expected that we would win that day.

“It was the only game I’ve ever played in my life where you couldn’t ignore the presence of the crowd. You could feel the passion. It was goosebumps. I hope the current body can have the same feelings after the final whistle today,” McGurk said.

Comparing the preparation the current Derry team is going through to that of the 1993 All-Ireland-winning team, the Lavey man says it’s like “night and day”.

“There’s obviously a lot of excitement in the county, but there’s not a lot of excitement around the team itself. Rory did a fantastic job shielding the players and separating them from the crowd and the fanfare,” he said.

“Whereas in 1993, after winning the Ulster title, we were very much involved in the celebrations of the fans and probably a little less focused on the task at hand.

“But that excitement maybe got us a little bit into the semi-finals because we knew how much it means to the people of Derry. We didn’t want to let them down. Be it Rory or the players themselves, they have taken a very professional approach to this game. For them, it’s just about getting their job done, which is great to see.”

During an era of Ulster dominance, when Sam Maguire traveled to the northern provinces for a staggering four straight years (between ’91 and ’94), McGurk recalls that the ability to make history was what the Derry team was about ’93 and can see similar parallels in the current Oak Leaf roster to build their own legacy.

“I think in that famous year 1993 there was a bit of naivety in us. I feel like we just took it game by game,” he said.

“There was no real expectation within the team itself and we just played into it. Which is funny because we won the National League in 1992 and lost the Ulster final that year so it’s not like we’re nobody. We just went under the radar for some reason, I can’t say that about the current team, there’s a bigger expectation of them.

“We were very inspired by the likes of Donegal and Down who did it two years earlier. We had to work hard to keep up with them. Believe me, there’s a lot to do if you want to win an All-Ireland,” recalled the Lavey man.

McGurk finished that year as a cult hero in Derry, not only capturing the Sam Maguire but also earning an All-Star and Man of the Match award for his performance in the final. Still, the Derry defender can look back on that period with a feeling that more could have been achieved.

“If I take away some sadness from this period, I would say it was extremely unfortunate that we didn’t win another All-Ireland and I would say the same for Donegal.

“If the back door had been there in our time we and Donegal could certainly have won another All-Ireland. But look, that’s life and I still have a medal that so many people in Derry could only dream of.

“For me, this is Derry’s best chance ever to go to and win an All-Ireland final. Look at the history books, it’s not easy for us to get there. And there’s no chance they could be there next season, so if the opportunity presents itself, take it. Tyrone did it last year, Derry has to do it this year.”

Between 1993 and this current season, Oak Leaf County has seen the doldrums winning just one Ulster title in 1998 and reaching just one Ulster final in an 11-year span between 2011 and 2022.

While there has been debate about county club rivalry, which plays a big factor in the tense inter-county sides’ success, McGurk believes it stems simply from past teams not being good enough.

“There are two things you would look for when accessing success in Derry. People say we’re underachieving because of club rivalry in the county, but club rivalry has always existed in Derry long before I played. So I don’t believe in it.

“The second thing is that Derry is not like a Kerry or a Dublin. We rarely win All-Irelands. Maybe we’re overtaking ourselves as supports and putting ourselves in that category, but I think you have to be realistic and say that we’ve just not been good enough in the past and it just took someone like Rory to come around and the players bring together.

“We know Rory’s appointment in 2019 probably had a lot of doubters across the county but that aside if you had told me two years ago Derry was going to play in an All Ireland semi-final I would have laughed at your face. I didn’t think anyone could have fixed this team.”

So what can we expect from the game at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon?

“I think Galway could play with the fact that they beat Derry in the league. But the most important thing Galway needs to do is stick with Derry in terms of fitness because football wise this Derry team is not building massive leads.

“I can’t imagine Derry playing any differently than they did in the Ulster final where they play the game on their own terms and are in control. As many say, it’s like a game of chess. It got them over the line past, but it can be a dangerous way to play when push comes to shove.

It may have been 29 long years since McGurk made that heroic point of making history for his county on that August afternoon in 1993, but it’s something that has never left him and will no doubt put a smile on his face, if he’s watching from there it’s at GAA headquarters this afternoon.

“It’s just a time I look back on with great fondness. These guys need to hug tomorrow because like I said, it doesn’t happen that often. I’m going to be sitting next to Joe (Brolly) tomorrow, so I’m going to have a different kind of fun, but no doubt that point from ’93 will be stuck somewhere in the back of my mind.

“In terms of how that semi-final point affected me? I still have Derry fans coming up and buying me a pint and as long as this continues the memories of that day will never leave me,” said McGurk.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/this-is-derrys-best-chance-to-get-into-an-all-ireland-final-and-win-it-oak-leaf-legend-johnny-mcgurk-41826222.html “This is Derry’s best chance of getting into an All-Ireland final and winning it” – Oak Leaf legend Johnny McGurk

Fry Electronics Team

Fry Electronics.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@fry-electronics.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button