By Shaun Casey
RORY Gallagher’s Derry senior team competing at the top table will only drive the underage sides on says u-20 captain Dan Higgins.
Higgins was part of the minor panel that won the All-Ireland in 2020 and from that side, Eoin McEvoy, Matthew Downey, Lachlan Murray, Niall O’Donnell and Mark Doherty have graduated to the senior squad, creating a pathway for the rest of the emerging talent to follow.
“The fact that they are playing in a senior squad and the level they’re at with winning Ulster last year and now a few of them are having a real impact in the team, it gives us belief that it’s not far away for some of us,” said Higgins.
“It gives us that ambition to drive on and eventually break into the senior team. The aim’s not to play for the county u-20s it’s to play county seniors. It’s an aim for anyone I’m sure playing u-20s, they’re not going to want to stop there, they’ll try to drive on to the seniors.”
There’s a feel-good factor around the Oak Leaf County at the minute and the recent success of the senior squad is filtering down to youngsters.
“Last year was just incredible what the senior team brought to the whole of Derry, it’s something that I’d never felt in Derry,” added Higgins. “Even this year when they beat Dublin there a few weeks ago, those are the sort of games that I wouldn’t have had when I was a young boy.
“You just think of all the young lads watching the games and what that must mean to them, seeing their county do so well. And even for myself, even though it was just in the league, seeing them beat Dublin, the best team of the past ten years with a lot of the six-in-a-row team still there, it was just unreal.
“At underage we’d have always had no doubt about our quality. Ever since I’ve been involved with Derry setups, I’ve never had any doubts over beating teams like Dublin and Kerry. We beat Kerry in the All-Ireland (minor) final and Meath in the All-Ireland semi.
“Seeing them do it now at senior level makes a massive difference because it’s not just underage, we now have the manager and the players available. The coaching that is being done by Rory and his management team has been really driving everyone on.”