Despite being only 25, Emmett McGuckin admitted to feeling like one of the ‘old brigade’ as a youthful Derry began their McKenna Cup campaign with an encouraging one point win over Armagh.
The Magherafelt forward is in his eighth season with the senior county set-up and was named captain against Kieran McGeeney’s Orchard side. He responded by firing home a second half penalty he had engineered himself and afterwards highlighted the impact of Jack Doherty, Oisin Hegarty and Peter Hagan on a revamped Derry squad.
“I almost feel like one of the ‘old boys’ but that’s not a bad thing!” smiles McGuckin.
“It is always nice to start the year with a win especially with the way we had to work hard to get the win. We fought for our win.
“The first 20 minutes, it was probably touch and go. It was about trying to get into the get into the game with a lot of boys playing for the first time but once we got going it was a lot better.
“Everybody is working hard in training and it is easy to see (the changes since we last played Armagh in the O Fiaich Cup). Fair play to the young lads, although it seems strange to call them ‘young lads’. Some of the boys playing for the first time were excellent.
“The boys showed well out there and played out of their skins. The likes of Peter Hagan, who has been in or around the panel for a couple of years, had an excellent game; Oisin was another and Jack, at 19 years of age and playing at centre half back, had an excellent game.”
McGuckin’s said he was happy to step up to take the 43rd minute penalty he won after his shot was blocked by Stephen Sheridan’s foot.
“No one ever let me hit a penalty before but maybe I will get to take them for a while now! No, it is nice to score but it’s not about one person or one penalty, it is a team game and everybody put the effort in.
“It is the McKenna Cup, yes, but two points at any stage of the years is a welcomed thing.”