An epic way to win a Ulster Championship says Rory Gallagher of Derry's victory over Donegal
Rory Gallagher described Derry's extra-time Ulster Final victory over Donegal in Clones on Sunday as an "epic" way to become Ulster champions.
Following a superb opening half in which Derry lead 1-06 to 0-06, the Oak Leafers had been pinned back by Odhran McFadden-Ferry's goal right at the start of the second period. A tense second half couldn't separate the teams and it wasn't until 'Man of the Match' Brendan Rogers and Conor Glass split the Donegal posts in the second half of extra-time that Derry finally got daylight between themselves and Donegal who were appearing in their tenth Ulster final of the past 12 years.
Even then Donegal came back with Ethan Doherty and Emmett Bradley putting their bodies on the line as Michael Murphy fired a late free at goal in a bid to salvage the game before referee Sean Hurson's final whistle was the cue for thousands of Derry fans to pour onto the Clones pitch to celebrate a first Ulster title in 24 years.
“I'm delighted, it was an epic way to win an Ulster championship and probably quite fitting," explained the Derry boss, "The drama, considering we played Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal who have owned the Ulster Championship, with the exception of Cavan, for the last 24 years.
"And for these players, who are bound to have watched on with huge envy and jealousy, to have looked on for the last six or seven years and not be part of it. So to win it the way we did: they showed character. Not a perfect display. But they had character.”
Gallagher admitted there were stages Derry had to dig in but said he never doubted the character of his team even after the shock of that McFadden-Ferry goal, the first Derry have conceded in three years of Ulster Championship football.
"You are never comfortable but I was never worried we weren’t going to react I wasn’t worried we weren’t going to go at them or that we would lie down and that gives you a massive chance.
"Words don’t even matter that’s being honest," he added of his team talk heading into extra-time. "There’s a lot made of that but we felt we were the better team so we had to reprove it again and even at the end of normal time, we had the chances
"We came from behind after giving away a shocking goal by our standards. We hadn’t conceded a goal against Armagh and Donegal last year and Tyrone and Monaghan this year and we didn’t bank on conceding one today but from the throw in its in the net. To then show that level of character or balls - whatever you want to call it - I never doubted we'd come back but that doesn’t mean I thought we’d win, you just don’t know."