In a wonderful piece in yesterday's Sunday Times, Mick Foley lamented the cooling of the Derry/Tyrone rivalry by accentuating the absent, namely the amazing intensity of the 1992 clash in the Ulster Championship:
The BBC had agreed to carry the game live but refused to broadcast the national anthem before the match. Once the song finished, there was a delay waiting for the nod from the TV producer to start. Players started bouncing off each other and getting in each other's ears. One Tyrone supporter started doing press-ups to release the adrenalin.
Had that Tyrone supporter been at Celtic Park yesterday, merely standing up would have been a needless use of energy. Derry slept-walk their way through an eminently predictable eleven-point defeat, which is just the latest indignity for a county desperately hoping to meet rock bottom soon.
Relegation to Division Three was the meagre harvest a miserable spring, and now they head for the first round of the qualifiers after a seventh defeat to Tyrone in two years.
Naturally, such a long run of misery in Ulster has drawn strong criticism, with Joe Brolly infamously printing an obituary to Derry football after last year's championship defeat to Tyrone.
It is hard not to think of Brolly when reading these post-game comments by Derry manager, Damien Barton. He was speaking after yesterday's game to Newstalk's Oisin Langan, and when asked by the interviewer about the rumours that numbers at training have been poor, Barton fired back by rejecting that claim, while also directing his ire to 'one pundit in particular':
Rubbish. Absolute rubbish. There are a few begrudgers, and I can't understand what their nonsense is. It's strange. People might be doing gym work, and people might be out on the pitch; that's the way training is these days. Some people would see 24 out on a pitch and think, 'Wait a minute, where's everyone else at?'. The bottom line is, and it's part of the bigger picture, that there are some very, very rich counties that are well-supported financially, and they can have 35 or 40 men at training, and they can go on holidays, or training camps. We can't do that. And this promotion of a top eight will make that gulf bigger. Counties like Derry don't need to do that, they don't need to be running with 35 or 40 players. So I don't know what the big deal is, but we've always had healthy numbers at training.
There have been idiots who have been suggesting that they've been talking to players, and so on: they haven't been talking to anyone. I can think of one pundit in particular. Absolute trash. We should just put 'attention seeker' on his forehead. It's hard to believe he is a Derry person.
Absolutely crap. That's what galls me more than most.
It is true that Derry have lost a lot of players from last year, with nine players opting out of rejoining the panel for 2017. Barton admitted that it's their choice to do so, but was critical of their decision nonetheless:
That's their choice. If someone isn't happy wearing number 16, they shouldn't be here. It's a 21-man game, so if someone isn't happy, they shouldn't be here. And if they don't realise that now there's something seriously wrong.
Years ago, someone might never see grass, but they wouldn't have missed a training session. But it's different now. The energy expended in games mean that you have to rotate players. So I don't know what that's about. It's an honour and a privilege to be involved with Derry, and we've got a bit of a kicking over the past couple of years over player departure. I will never wane from the fact that it has been an honour and a privilege to be involved with Derry, as it was when I was playing.
The sooner players realise that, the better. As I said to the players, all over the world today - and I know it's easy to say this - but whether you're in New York, or Sydney, or wherever: people will have pulled on a Derry jersey - irrespective of age - and they'd have sat down and supported Derry. They are the true supporters we play for, and those who are here today.
But I can't believe that there are people in our own county who are begrudging us, in our own county. I don't know what it's like in Cork, in Dublin, but it seems our media are particularly sore on us. People need to get real as to where we're at, this is where Derry is. And that's it. So I don't know what their expectation is.
You can listen to the full interview below.