Derry manager Rory Gallagher praises impact of All Ireland winning minor duo

Manager Rory Gallagher believes minor All Ireland winners Matthew Downey and Lachlan Murray are ready to make an impact for Derry this season and says others aren’t far behind.

Murray rounded off three impressive displays with 0-3 against Donegal on Tuesday night and while not involved in Ballybofey, Downey had already illustrated his potential against Monaghan and in a ‘Man of the Match’ performance against Fermanagh. Enda Downey’s evening on Tuesday was cut short by injury after a superb start against Declan Bonner’s team but Gallagher was satisfied with the work done in the season opening competition.

“Lachlan and Matthew are where we need them to be, there is no doubt about that,” said Gallagher after the 2-09 to 0-11 defeat, “I think Conor McCluskey is in a really good place.

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“Those three players and Paul Cassidy, we have given him a role in the half forward line and he has been excellent. Add in Ethan (Doherty) who has to come back into the team. Paul has been excellent; he added a few good points in the first half.

Lachlan Murray has enjoyed an excellent McKenna Cup campaign for Derry this season. (Photo: George Sweeney)

“It was good to get Shane Heavron on as well. He had one moment of brilliance that created a goal chance, and he hasn’t had the volume of training yet but it was disappointing for Enda (Downey).”

Gallagher decided to use the McKenna Cup to blood a number of young players but the Derry manager stressed every one who played had earned their place.

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“I’m happy, I think they are the next best players,” he explained,” Myself and the management team have seen a lot of the club championship. I think those players are a better quality. Matthew and Lachlan showed it, I believe in Eoin McEvoy, I believe in Mark Doherty and they haven’t seen much game time.

“Enda (Downey) has started to show it as well. Young Dan Higgins hasn’t had a go at it; he has a couple of wee niggly injuries but I do believe they are the way forward for us and they are the next county players for us.”

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The Derry boss admitted he was frustrated at the sloppy nature of the two first half goals conceded against Declan Bonner’s side but sad he was relieved to have a free weekend ahead of next weekend’s league opener against Down.

“I was delighted to get through to the semi-final. We aren’t too bothered about being in a final; of course we’d have liked to win. If we’d a stronger squad, it would’ve been great. To give Lachlan, we’d have hoped Matthew, but even Conor McCluskey, the more appearances they get against quality opposition the better.

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“Donegal are into their 11th year as a very high profile, top six team and in Division 1 for six or seven years on the bounce. To come up against them, even for Oisin in the middle of the field, even Paul Cassidy who I thought had a great workout and kicked two outstanding points, that level of exposure.

“Playing against this level of opposition, you can’t get enough of it,” he added.

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Derry exit McKenna Cup as Donegal advance to meet Monaghan in final