Derry managed the performance of the weekend as the Ulster champions banished some of the recent criticism around their performances, according to Tomás Ó Sé.

The Oak Leafers smashed in three goals against neighbours Donegal yesterday as they put the stale draw against Monaghan behind them. The Farney men, for their part, are beginning to show some form which puts Derry's draw against them in a different light.

Speaking on the RTÉ GAA Podcast, Ó Sé suggested that some changes in Derry's approach have made proper contenders for Sam Maguire next month.

"With everything that's going on in the background with Rory Gallagher, and naturally the Armagh game (Ulster final) was huge and took an awful lot out of them," said the former Kerry defender.

"It was difficult to come out so soon after. People were looking at Derry in the Monaghan match; they've been looking at Derry for the last year and a half, and they're trying to make this progression, and add to their bow in an attacking sense.

"After the Monaghan game you were thinking about whether what was going on in the background rattling them, is it an issue? They were not as energetic as they normally were.

"Then they come out a week later with an absolutely powerful performance. Donegal were absolutely brilliant, they pressed on Derry's kick outs, they stayed on their coattails.

"But at the very end the conditioning, the driving, the support play - it was phenomenal. Their half-back line kept on driving all day. Everything is slick, to hand."

With 15 of the 16 teams in the group stages still in with a chance of lifting the Sam Maguire on 30 July - Clare are out with a game to go - every team will be looking for a big performance in the concluding group game.

Conor Glass: Derry good but not great against Donegal

Galway are still many people's favourites, with Kerry and Dublin not far behind. But for Ó Sé, who collected five Celtic Crosses in his playing days with the Kingdom, Derry can have a big say in the destination of Sam Maguire.

"Obviously there's an awful long way to go, but who would you pick? Right now Derry would not fear anybody in the country.

"The way they're playing they have to be considered title contenders. There's only three teams that can put up their hand and say there isn't a question mark about them winning it because they have actually won it - they have that experience.

"Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone - there's a question mark over Galway, can they make that step up? Can Roscommon make a step up on a smaller level? But can Derry make the big step up?

"With the way they've shaped the team, the little subtle changes, the spread of scorers they have up front -yeah, Derry are real title contenders."

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