AS THE clock ticked towards and then past the conclusion, Rory Gallagher became haunted by some of the qualities he helped instil in Donegal.
By Chris McNulty at Sean MacCumhaill Park
It’s just over ten years ago now since Gallagher, 32 and just a few months after playing his last game for Fermanagh, took his first session as a Donegal coach.
From 2011-2013, Gallagher was assistant manager to Jim McGuinness, a spell that included the 2012 All-Ireland win, while he returned for a spell as Donegal manager following McGuinness’ departure.
In Ballybofey this afternoon, Gallagher, now Derry’s manager, watched in horror as Patrick McBrearty monstrous score gave Donegal a 0-16 to 0-15 win. McBrearty curled over to give Donegal the ever-so-slight edge and deny Gallagher. As McBrearty swung the boot, Gallagher, who also worked with the forward at Kilcar, knew what was coming.
As he made his way back to south west Donegal, where he resided, Gallagher will surely have been chewed by what-ifs.
“It is very hard to rock up and be a team,” Gallagher said.
“There is an awful lot made of donegal’s rise in 2011. Some of you in the media totally overestimated because Donegal won a league in 2007. We are not coming from that stronghold.
“They were in an All-Ireland U21 final in 2010 and went on in 2011 with a serious group of players. We are coming from further back than that. You want to be playing against these teams, that’s the best to learn and it is no disrespect to the lower divisions, but it is the Tyrones, the Monaghans and the Armaghs you have to learn from.
“They learn how to win together and lose together. They don’t get too up or they don’t get too down.”
During the week, Gallagher urged his players to ‘stand up and be counted’ – and they certainly heeded that advice.
Derry, with Gallagher basically operating the controls from the sideline, dared to dream and twice held a four-point lead.
Donegal, though, didn’t panic.
Gallagher said: “You’ve to give Donegal massive credit. They never put their heads down, they are experienced. When we went 0-6 to 0-2 up they came back. When we went 0-12 to 0-8 up they came back. When we equalised at 0-15 each, they dug it out. That’s when you are short of their overall package and that’s what we have to strive to get to.
“I know Michael’s (Murphy) thinking, I know Neil’s (McGee) thinking, Ryan’s thinking, Eoghan Ban, Hugh McFadden, I know Michael Langan’s thinking and they would know what they were going to get here today. They were not coming thinking they were going to hose us.
“They would have gone to Newry, no disrespect, knowing they were going to win well and this will stand to them. They have always been very good at keep their feet on the ground, they are very grounded and they would have ben looking forward to the challenge, obviously hoping to come out of it easier than they did.”
Derry won promotion out of Division 3, collecting that tier’s silverware thanks to a win over Offaly too.
Gallagher believes that the Oak Leaf can dine at the top table.
He said: “I certainly feel we are the real deal.
“I think we were there today. We’ve to get playing the top teams, get a higher success rate and start winning them.”
“There is an awful lot of theories about tactics and one things or another but team spirit and togetherness, playing for the cause – I see boys there doing a warm up there that don’t get games and I know them inside out. Paddy McGrath, number 32 there, he won’t sulk, he will get on with it and that’s what we need to do.
“We need to learn an awful lot. I would be passing on some of the experience I have from Donegal , the way they always put the team first. even today, when it wasn’t going their way, they stuck at it and dug it out.”Tags: