Fermanagh 1-10, Derry 0-17
Derry must prepare for a Tuesday night McKenna Cup semi-final against Donegal at MacCumhail Park after Saturday's four point victory over Fermanagh in Shamrock Park confirmed their spot as Section C runners-up behind Monaghan.
The Oak Leafers went into the game knowing victory would all but assure them of a spot in the last four and while the home county gave them a scare with Sean Quigley's 59th minute goal, Derry were always in control on a difficult surface which saw players on loose their footings on several occasions.
In the end the four point margin of victory left Derry one short of Monaghan five points win but with Doneqal defeating Antrim, Gallagher's men proceeded on three points. The wisdom of a Tuesday night semi-final, is questionable given the ongoing schools' competitions and with the final scheduled for next weekend, only seven days before the league throws in so changes are to be expected for the last four clash.
Derry go into the semi-final with plenty of positives across the two group games with the performance of 2020 All Ireland winning captain Matthew Downey a notable plus on a cold day in Roslea. Downey finished with 0-07 but it was the assured nature his display, the Lavey man content to accept responsibility, that was most impressive. His inclusion took much of the play-making emphasis off the likes of Ciaran McFaul and Emmet Bradley and while six of his scores came from placed balls, his all round performance highlighted his huge potential.
And there were plenty of other good displays, Paul Cassidy giving his usual non-stop display at both ends of the pitch while Conor McCluskey making a number of crucial defensive interceptions and Conor Doherty was excellent.
The main area of concern for Gallagher and Derry would be Fermanagh's success with the direct ball in as Derry struggled with the physical power of Quigley although his second half goal owed as much to Derry switching off as it did to impressive quick thinking from Fermanagh.
That's a problem is likely to be remedied once the Slaughtneil contingent are back on board but with that likely to come after the throw in of the league, Derry were given food for thought.
Derry made two changes from the side that started last week's draw with Monaghan, Ciaran McFaul and Gareth McKinless coming in for Oisin McWilliams and Niall Toner.
The Oak Leafers started quite slowly and it would take until the 24th before they scored their first point from play as Conor Doherty strode forward to hit one of two superb first half scores. By the stage Doherty had grabbed his first the sides had traded scores with Derry leading 0-4 to 0-3, Downey registering through three Downey frees and one from Emmet Bradley while Aidan Breen, Quigley (mark) and Brandon Horan pointed for the home side.
At 0-4 to 0-1, Derry almost had a goal when Gareth McKinless' brilliant run through the heart of the Fermanagh defence teed up Ciaran McFaul to force a winder save from home keeper Sean McNally who touched the Derry player's fierce shot onto tot underside of the cross bar and the ball was scrambled clear.
Bradley, Doherty, Paul Cassidy and Benny Heron stretched Derry's lead to 0-9 to 0-4 before a superb sole effort from Downey, cutting in from Derry left flank had the sides again five points apart at 0-10 to 0-5, a late Quigley free then ensuring the teams turned around at 0-10 to 0-6.
It is a margin that would be intact at the final whistle, Fermanagh's cause not helped by a 65th minute black card for substitute Kane Connor only minutes after Quigley's lovely low finish had breathed life into their bid to reel Derry in.
The goal arrived on 61 minutes when Declan McCusker's lovely ball gave Quigley the opportunity to call a mark on Derry right side. Derry hesitated, Padraig McGrogan probably expecting the forward to shoot for a point. Instead his played it short to Danny Leonard who quickly returned the pass which gave Quigley the space to fire a low finish past Odhran Lynch's diving left hand for 0-13 to 1-09 with nine minutes to play.
Fermanagh upped the tempo but Derry were not about to be caught and impressively settled proceedings down again thanks to another Downey free in a half in which substitute Edna Downey also hit two frees.
With Connor then seeing Black to end his involvement it was only about whether Derry could win by enough to top the group. They didn't manage it but they had done enough to secure a last four spot.
Fermanagh scorers: Aidan Breen (0-2), Sean Quigley (1-5, 4f, 1m), Brandon Horan (0-1), Tiernan Bogue (0-1), Darragh McGurn (0-1, 1m)
Derry scorers: Matthew Downey (0-7, 6f), Emmett Bradley (0-3, 2f), Conor Doherty (0-2), Paul Cassidy (0-1), Benny Heron (0-1), Enda Downey (0-2, 1f), Lachlan Murray (0-1)
Fermanagh: Sean McNally, Luke Flanagan, Garret Cavanagh, Declan McCusker, Aidan Breen, James McMahon, Josh Largo Ellis, Daragh McGurn, Joe McDade, Ciaran Corrigan, Ryan Lyons, Danny Leonard, Brandon Horan, Tiarnan Bogue, Sean Quigley. (Subs) Kane Connor for R Lyons, 51mins;Lorcan McStravick for C Corrigan, 70mins; Richard O'Callaghan for T Bogue, 71mins;
Yellow Cards: D McGurn, 4mins; B Horan, 41mins;
Black Card: K Connor, 65mins;
Derry: Odhran Lynch, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Shea Downey, Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Michael McEvoy, Ciaran McFaul, Emmett Bradley, , Ethan Doherty, Paul Cassidy, Matthew Downey, Benny Heron, Lachlan Murray, Niall Loughlin. (Subs) Niall Toner for E Doherty (inj), 31mins; Enda Downey for N Loughlin, 58mins; Declan Cassidy for C McFaul, 66mins; Anton Tohill for C Doherty (inj), 69mins; Shane Heavron for B Heron. 73mins..
Yellow cards: C McFaul, 38mins;
Referee: Enda McFeely (Donegal)