By Michael McMullan
DERRY manager Rory Gallagher insists that playing in Division One is a must to becoming a superpower.
Speaking after Sunday’s win over Clare, the Derry boss stated that the squad had a target of clinching promotion before this weekend’s trip to Cork.
The Derry boss was full of praise for how the squad bounced back after missing out on a promotion spot last year and granted them this week off with a league decider and the pending championship.
“If you want to become a real heavy weight in our sport you have to be playing in Division One, that’s the reality of it,” Gallagher.
“I know Dublin are probably the exception at the minute, the second favourites for the All-Ireland and playing in Division Two, but that is not normal.
“We want to get up and even last night (Saturday), it wasn’t a great game between Armagh and Galway with the crowd at that. It (Division Two) is just not the same. We want to play the top teams and I think we have earned the right.”
Now in his fourth season and with 41 competitive games under his belt, Gallagher – like the body language radiated from the squad – is thriving in their rise over the last two seasons.
“We came back in September 2020, after Covid, and we had the addition of Conor (Glass), Ethan (Doherty) and Paul (Cassidy) into our squad (with all three making their debut on the same night).
“Since that, today was the 20th league game we have played and we have won 18, drawn one and lost one. We are clearly a lot better than the majority of those teams but ultimately the Dublins, the Galways, the Roscommons.
“There is not much between any of us so we want to play against those teams all the time. To be honest we learned more out of the Dublin game than we would have learned out of the other 15.”
Derry had facile wins over Clare, Limerick and Meath at Owenbeg and hammered Kildare in Newbridge. Louth in Ardee made them dig deep until Niall Toner’s goal gave them a much-needed boost. But the Dublin game told them more than anything.
A fisted Tom Lahiff point had Derry six points in arrears early in the second half before Gareth McKinless kicked into gear to make another vital goal for Toner.
In the closing stages, Lachlan Murray, Oisin McWilliams and Shea Downey all had impacts as Derry took the right options in the eye of a storm.
“It was a very pleasing aspect, it was pleasing to see the experience and the maturity of the players,” Gallagher said of the learnings.
“The whole occasion and learning to deal with it, having not dealt with it in the first 20 or 25 minutes and growing into the game, not giving in and going out and winning a game from behind. We have not really had to do that too often.”