DERRY GAA: Division Two much tougher in 2023 claims Rory Gallagher
Derry boss Rory Gallagher believes securing promotion from Division Two this season will be an even tougher task than it was last year.
The Oak Leafers kick off their 2023 league campaign when newly promoted Limerick arrive in Owenbeg on Saturday (3pm) but with Dublin and Meath dropping down to replace Galway and Roscommon, it means two of the four 2022 provincial championships winners will competing in the second tier. Indeed, Gallagher is expecting the quality to be even higher than 12 months ago when Derry missed out on promotion on the final day.
"I think Division Two is a vastly improved standard in terms of quality compared to last year," explained the Oak Leaf manager.
"Down wouldn't have performed the way they wanted to last year, nor would Offaly, whereas Limerick and Louth this year are two teams very much on the rise.
"Obviously Kevin Walsh has gone down to Cork and Mark Doran to Clare; Colm O'Rourke with Meath, then there is Dublin and Kildare as well so it’s going to be a very competitive division with a lot of quality.
"We last met Limerick in the Division Three semi-final at a time when we were in good form and we were put to the pin of our collar to win so there are no easy games."
Gallagher accepts his team go into Saturday as favourites and believes that billing is something Derry should embrace, although he stressed they won't be taking anything for granted.
"Limerick defeated Tipperary last year which shows their potential and with the hurling driving them on, I don't doubt there is a lot of good work going in," he added, "They always have immense physical strength as a team, something we remember from that semi-final.
"They have Ray Dempsey in now. He went for the Mayo job and obviously didn't get it but he's won two Mayo championships with Knockmore. I remember him playing; a big, burly full forward on the good Mayo teams of the mid-90s, I think they will have got a boost from him coming in.
"But I can totally understand we will be favourites. I suppose being Ulster champions and with the way we performed last year, it means we are but that's a good thing. It’s up to us to embrace that and to roll on the positive way we have been. We have to continue to be hungry and continue to improve."