With promotion still an outside possibility, Gallagher takes his Oak Leaf side to face the fourth placed Royals while already promoted Galway travel to Dr. Hyde Park to face a Roscommon side vying for Derry for that second promotion spot. A home victory and the Rossies will be guaranteed to go up while a draw would leave Derry needing to defeat Meath by at least six points to leapfrog Roscommon into second.
It means Derry fate is no longer in Oak Leaf hands and with relatively little at stake for either Meath nor Galway in their respective fixtures, some have suggested they will not be overly concerned at the outcomes, a suggestion Gallagher finds ridiculous.
“I’m expecting Meath to want to continue their upward trajectory and to go into this match with that agenda,” stated the Derry manager, “They had a very disappointing start to the National League by their own standards having come down from Division One two years ago but they have turned a corner now are unbeaten in their last three games, wining two of them.
“They will be coming all guns blazing in front of their home crowd. Every team at this stage no matter what - no matter whether you are in the shake up for promotion, trying to avoid relegation or with nothing to play for in league terms - every team wants to bring momentum into the championship and I expect a rip roaring contest.
“Every team is playing for that type of momentum and every player that is part of a squad, if he gets an opportunity he is going to give absolutely everything for his county. I laugh sometimes at suggestion (teams won’t) because we get such a minimal number of games as a county and you’re just going out to give absolutely everything whether it is a McKenna Cup, a league or a championship game.
“The way it is now, probably bar the McKenna Cup, but there is very little difference once you get passed the third or fourth league game to a championship level.”
Derry and Meath last met in the League in 2017 when the Royals won by 15 points against a depleted Oak Leaf team during Damien Barton’s reign but while Derry supporters in Navan will have one eye on proceedings in Roscommon, Gallagher says he won’t be paying any attention to the score in Dr. Hyde Park.
“During the game I certainly won’t be keeping an eye on it but I’m sure there are people who will,” he explained, “We need to make sure that, number one, we do enough to win the game against Meath and then whatever happens in Roscommon will happen. The final league placings will be the final league placings, whatever they are and the top two will go up.
“I know Padraig (Joyce) fairly well and John (Divilly) having worked a bit with them a long time ago so I don’t believe Galway will be going out to throw a game. The Galway players that take the field, and naturally they are going to protect a couple of players who were carrying slight knocks like any team does, but I believe they will be a very driven bunch of Galway players out there.”
Derry will be without the services of Oisin McWilliams who suffered a broken jaw last week in an incident that saw Galway midfielder Paul Conroy sent off and Gallagher admits he expects the Swatragh player to be out for “ a considerable period” but he will welcome back Shane McGuigan from his controversial one match suspension.
“Despite Shane being unavailable he trained really well last week and you can see the appetite. Look, there’s no doubt we felt there was a serious sense of injustice about it but sometimes you get those setbacks and we have to learn from them and move on.
“We lost last week’s game early on and I think we were the architects of our own downfall. We were very poor as a team on our own kick-out and brought the trouble on ourselves. We gave Galway an advantage that we should not have given them and the game then ran away from us very quickly.
“We trained on Tuesday and, listen, there’s no point felling sorry for yourself after something like that. We all have to look in the mirror and see what went wrong collectively and absorb the lessons from it. Sometimes they are very painful for certain individuals but that’s the way it is. It’s a team sport but within that there are individuals that have to carry a certain amount of responsibility, including myself.
“We’ll learn from it and have moved on from it very quickly but we need to show that on Sunday.”