Derry manager Rory Gallagher expecting to face 'hungry' Tyrone at Owenbeg

Rory Gallagher is expecting a "hungry" Tyrone team to arrive at Owenbeg on Wednesday night as Derry face off against the Red Hands for a place in the McKenna Cup semi-finals (7.30pm).

Derry’s Gareth McKinless charges past Tyrone’s Brian Kennedy during the Ulster Championship clash last May.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2218GS – 002
Derry’s Gareth McKinless charges past Tyrone’s Brian Kennedy during the Ulster Championship clash last May. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2218GS – 002

The Derry manager saw his side get 2023 off to a winning start at Ederney on Sunday with a deserved, if ring rusty, 0-11 to 1-07 victory over a Fermanagh team Tyrone had defeated 0-17 to 1-07 in Healy Park four days earlier. That means the winner of Wednesday's clash will be assured their place in the last four as Section B winners and Gallagher is keen to see his side progress.

“In our heads, we would love three games at least," admitted the Derry manager, "It’s different this year, we have the Slaughtneil contingent that wee bit earlier although Glen are now into the All-Ireland Club SFC Final.

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“We’d love to get another game but we’re just looking forward to the battle with Tyrone now."

This week's game will be the first meeting of the counties since Derry's superb 1-18 to 0-10 victory over the then reigning All Ireland champions back in May. That Ulster Championship exit for Tyrone was followed by an All Ireland Series one at the hands of another Ulster rival in Armagh to cap a miserable season and Gallagher is expecting to face a Red Hand 15 with a point to prove

"Tyrone will definitely be hurting but by all accounts they have an awful lot of work done," added the Oak Leaf boss, "They probably felt there was a softening of the belly and clearly they were not happy with how it (last season's championship) went but it's not easy after being All Ireland champions, so I would expect to have a very hungry team coming to Owenbeg on Wednesday night.

"There's no such thing as a friendly in Ulster, whether that's the McKenna Cup or any other game! Now it's up to our boys to recover, prepare and see if we are up for the battle. In the first half against Fermanagh I thought we were a bit flat but showed a great bit of battling in the second half, albeit the quality was poor at times.

"We are looking forward to Wednesday. Between ourselves and Tyrone, we'd feel we are two of the heavyweights within Ulster so it should be a great challenge.”