By Michael McMullan
DERRY manager Rory Gallagher expects captain Conor Glass to “be fine” and available for the first game of their Ulster Championship defence on Saturday week against Fermanagh in Brewster Park.
Glass was replaced early in the second half of their league final defeat to Dublin with what the Derry boss termed a “nipped hamstring”, an injury he didn’t feel was major.
Derry were back in training on Wednesday night and while Glass sat out the session, Gallagher expects him to be available for what would be his first championship game as skipper.
“We got him scanned as a precaution and it came back clear,” Gallagher told Gaelic Life. “It was a wee bit of cramp and tightness. He is not training this week, but he is fine. We’ll see how he is at the weekend and at the start of next week, but we expect him to be fine.
Paudi McGrogan, who was replaced after sustaining a “dead leg” late in the Dublin defeat, was back training on Wednesday night.
Gallagher revealed that Eoin McEvoy was able for more than his late cameo in Croke Park, but chose to get more minutes into Shea Downey.
“With Chrissy (McKaigue), we just made the decision,” the Derry boss added. “He slightly rolled his ankle (against Cork) and we said we wouldn’t be risking it. We know the pedigree of the player and it wasn’t worth it.
“No more than Conor (Glass), if it was a championship match, he’d have played on (against Dublin) but we got him out of there as well.”
Speaking on Friday morning, Gallagher said Oisin McWilliams was the only player looking like being unavailable for Saturday week’s championship opener.
McWilliams impressed on his only start, in the McKenna Cup final while coming on in every other game until he kicked a vital score in the dying embers of the win over Dublin in Celtic Park.
“He had a shin issue he was playing with for a couple of weeks,” Gallagher said. “As it turns out, he had a slight fracture of one of the bones and he was playing away with it and, like that, he could play away with it getting worse.
“The Fermanagh game will be a small bit early for him, but we expect him back training fully around that date or the start of the following week.”
The other big news from the Derry camp this week was the return of Ciaran McFaul to training on Wednesday night after his recent return from Boston.
The Glen man, who played all but one stoppage time minute in Rory Gallagher’s first two seasons, has not played for club or county since a win over Meath in Derry’s last NFL game of 2022, but the Derry boss isn’t concerned.
“Ciaran has always had undoubted ability and quality,” Gallagher said, expecting him to “knuckle down” and push to have a “terrific period” for Derry and Glen in 2023.
The pair kept in contact and McFaul was following Strength and Conditioning coach Peter Hughes’ programme in the US.
“From what I saw from training on Wednesday night, it was as if he was never away,” added Gallagher, who wasn’t concerned about his match experience amounting to a few games for Donegal Boston over the last 12 months.
“I am not even worried about that,” he said with conviction. “Once he comes back in and trains with ourselves (it’s about) adjusting to the way we play and the disciplines, the patterns of our play.
“He is an exceptionally talented footballer and I expect him to take the information, absorb it and take it in very quickly.
“He is just such a natural player, I’m not concerned whatsoever. In some ways, the mental break revitalises the hunger.
“I know he did a good bit of training out there. He is fortunate enough, Shane Carthy would’ve been out (in Boston), the St Vincent’s and Dublin player, and would’ve done some training with him.”