Sunday’s win was Derry’s first in Ulster since 2015 and their first championship victory over the Red Hands since 2006 when, ironically, they also knocked an All Ireland winning Tyrone team out of the provincial competition. Gallagher was understandably elated at as first championship win as Derry boss but stressed no one was about to get carried away with one victory.
“It was an unbelievable performance in a lot of ways,” reflected the Oak Leaf boss, “We are just delighted that the boys have shown they can stand up and win on a big Championship day, it’s a very nice place to be as a footballer and something you should never take for granted. To be afforded the opportunity to play on a day like this with a crowd of boys that you love hanging about with and enjoy playing with, it is a very rewarding experience.
“We would feel we are good enough but this is only the start of a journey, it’s up to us to capitalise on it now. Look, I have no doubt that myself, the management team and the players will all handle this right. It will be no big deal. We will enjoy ourselves tonight, have a bit of fun - I’ve told our boys to bring their ‘going out shirts’. We’ll enjoy ourselves this evening, recover tomorrow and we’ll move on.”
Despite the obvious progress under Gallagher that took Derry to within one point of promotion to Division One this season, the Fermanagh native admitted a major championship scalp was a notable omission from Derry’s recent list of positive accomplishments.
“It was glaringly missing for Derry,” stated Gallagher, “You need championship wins in Ulster and you have to beat top teams. We have done it today but we also have to learn from this, move on and see where we are at now for the semi-final.
“I felt going down to 14 men in the modern game, isn’t easy but I felt that we were in fair control of the game. We produced a lot of good football but obviously the red card had a big impact in our ability to run away with it then.”
The win sets up a first Ulster semi-final since 2015 for Derry when they were knocked out by a Donegal team managed, ironically, by the current Oak Leaf boss.
“It is funny how things go,” smiled the Derry boss at the irony, “I was on the other team that day in 2015 when we beat them. Life is funny like that but, no, we will really, really look forward to it. We have two more weeks championship preparation now and that will be the key.
“We want big days out. We have to enjoy them and push on, making sure they are consistent in performances and consistent in our hunger to play for each other.”