• Home
  • /
  • GAA
  • /
  • Shane McGuigan Explains How Derry Have Improved This Year

Shane McGuigan Explains How Derry Have Improved This Year

7 June 2023; PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in football, Shane McGuigan of Derry, with his award at PwC offices in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
By PJ Browne Updated
Share this article

Nearly a year on from putting just 1-6 on the scoreboard as they lost to Galway by five points in the All-Ireland semi-final, Shane McGuigan believes Derry have made attacking advances.

"Offensively, we are a far better team now," says McGuigan, speaking after being named PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in football.

"We've got boys chipping in with scores from all over the pitch - Brendan (Rogers), Conor (Doherty), Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Niall Toner, Benny Heron, Niall Loughlin, Conor McCluskey coming from deep. Conor Doherty got a goal at the weekend.

"We've got far better attacking threats all over the pitch. It's something that let us down against Galway, we didn't score much that day. The way we've offensively put our stamp on the game, that's the one positive from last year.

"We haven't done much, just asked a bit more of our defenders - if they see a bit more space to attack it. We'd looked at [the Galway game] and a lot of it came down to individuals not believing in themselves and their own ability, passing off the ball when the shot was on. It's something that was happening to me too.

"It's really about trying to back yourself to take on certain shots and know that you'll not get the criticism or the backchat from it.

"The more people who are stepping up to take scores, the better it is for me. Teams will be focusing on them and then hopefully that's the day when I can chip in with the odd score or two. The more scoring threats we have, the greater chance we'll have of winning the game."


14 May 2023; Derry players, from left, Gareth McKinless, Shane McGuigan and Ethan Doherty after their side's victory in the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Armagh and Derry at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, Monaghan. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

READ ALSO: GAA Fixtures: The Weekend's Big Gaelic Football And Hurling Games, And How To Watch Them

On the pitch, the year has gone as Derry would have hoped. They won promotion to Division 1 of the National Football League, retained their Ulster title, and so far have three points in the All-Ireland SFC group stage.


Off the pitch, Rory Gallagher departing as manager in the week before the Ulster final was not in the script but they have carried on with Ciaran Meenagh stepping in.

Derry's opening game of the group stage ended in a draw with Monaghan, a team they'd beaten by eight points four weeks earlier in the Ulster semi-final.

"We analysed it and were more than happy to come out with a point that day," says McGuigan, "because if we'd won that game in the end, it might have paved over the performance and we might have thought we were going better than we were.


"After that game, when we looked at it, we knew the mistakes we'd made and learnt from them. We knew we had to refocus because we might have been getting ahead of ourselves after the Ulster final. There's no team like Monaghan to bring you back down to Earth!

"I thought Monaghan really pinned us in. We were extremely dead in the first half. Our double-up and triple-up count was way below what it had been below all year. We were sitting very deep and they were just picking points off us from 40 and 50 yards. I thought that higher line defensively really stood to us then in the second half."

27 May 2023; Shane McGuigan of Derry celebrates kicking a late point during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Derry and Monaghan at Celtic Park in Derry. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

That match was followed by the weekend's 3-14 to 1-15 victory over Donegal, a win which bolstered Derry's All-Ireland title contender credentials.

Going into the final round of the group stage - which will be played on June 17th and 18th - Monaghan sit on top of Group 4, ahead of Derry on points scored. Derry face Clare in their final game while Monaghan play Donegal.


There is a real incentive to top the group: It ensure passage to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, avoiding the preliminary quarter-finals which will be contested by the sides which finish second and third in each of the four groups.


"It's like everything, it's got a bit of positive and negative," McGuigan says about the new format.

"Coming after the Ulster final and it being such a high and then refocusing for a league-type championship format was a bit strange. The more games, the better it is because, believe me, I'd rather be playing games than going for four or five weeks of training."


For some, Gaelic football is amid an existential crisis created by the possession-based football many teams play. There have been calls for rule changes like the introduction of a shot clock.

"The skill level at the minute is at an absolute high," says McGuigan.

"Obviously, there can be changes made to make the games a bit more interesting.

"The format of the championship has played into the style teams are showing at the moment too. Teams know they don't really need to win this game because they know they've got a game the following week and if they win that they'll be progressing to the All-Ireland series.

"When we go into the knockout stages when games are on the line, you'll see that bit more openness and championship feel to the games."

'They're driving their parents mad to get them to Derry games'

McGuigan works as a primary school teacher in Derry.

14 May 2023; Shane McGuigan of Derry celebrates kicking a point during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Armagh and Derry at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones, Monaghan. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

"Three weeks to holidays, counting down the days. It's been a long term!" he says.

"The club does summer schemes, coaching camps. I try to keep myself busy in those months because I wouldn't like to be sitting about all summer doing nothing. I need to keep myself active and my mind off things."

Should Derry's season extend to the All-Ireland final, his holidays would cover the quarter-finals, semi-finals and inter-county Gaelic football's biggest game of the year.

"You don't have an alarm clock going off for you at quarter past seven in the morning," says McGuigan about the benefits of having that time off.

"You can get that extra sleep and recovery in bed. You can take yourself to the sea for a recovery dip, you can get your gym done whenever. It definitely does help having them few weeks off."

Last year's Ulster final win was Derry's first in 24 years. Going back to the classroom as a provincial champion was a special moment.

"That's the one thing all the boys talk about - how much the kids have got behind this team," he says.

"I see it now in primary school. I think they're driving their parents mad to get them to the games. We feel that support massively."

See Also: How Kerry Career Ended Still Rankles With Russell

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Share this article
Brought to you by PwC

Proud sponsors of the PwC All-Stars and the PwC Camogie All-Stars. Celebrating excellence.

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com