DERRY GAA: Preparation trumps trophy as Oak Leafers seek first McKenna Cup win since 2011

Derry manager Rory Gallagher says he's delighted with the standard of competitive fixture the McKenna Cup has brought this season, even if lifting the trophy is never going to top his list of priorities.

Derry’s Benny Herron evades a tackle from Tyrone's Cathal McShane during last season's' Ulster Championship clash.  Photo: George Sweeney. DER2218GS – 001
Derry’s Benny Herron evades a tackle from Tyrone's Cathal McShane during last season's' Ulster Championship clash. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2218GS – 001

The Oak Leafers take on old rivals Tyrone in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening (6pm) seeking a first win the competition since 2011 when goals from Ciaran Mullan and Enda Muldoon helped John Brennan's team see off the Red Hands 2-12 to 2-11 in a thrilling final.

This weekend's decider is likely to be just as equally hard fought with Derry resurgence breathing new life into an age old rivalry between the two neighbours and Gallagher is delighted by it.

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"Not really is the honest answer," explains Gallagher, when quizzed if it was important to lift silverware at this stage of the season.

"I don't think it does any harm at all but it's far from the be all and end all later in the year. I suppose given ourselves and Tyrone, and the rivalry which would have been perceived over the years and which has now grown again, it'll be a good test. Neither of us will want to be on the wrong side of the result but win or lose we will get over it very quickly.

"It's Tyrone but there will be bigger days to beat Tyrone and Tyrone know there will be bigger days to beat Derry. Both teams are going to look to play really well but even that day we got the late equaliser from Lachlan and had lost 0-10 to 0-09, it wouldn't have made that big a difference to us.

"We showed good spirit and good character to come back that night and played well for periods, albeit not at our best, and likewise for Tyrone. Look, we'll play, there'll be a cup handed out, we'll park it and move on."

A potential Ulster Championship clash lies further down the line should both counties win their respective quarter-finals but Gallagher said his main focus is next week's Division Two opener against Limerick.

"We both know there's the potential to meet further down the line, you're always aware of that. You're not thinking about that but you are aware of it. That said, I don't think either team will get too bogged down with each other at this point. We’ll both be using the final as a really good exercise to get ready for the following week and the start of the league."That’s a bigger date for both but we want to play well in the final. We want players playing well and in good form."