Rory Gallagher was convinced Derry would be promoted after opening day victory in Longford

Rory Gallagher says he knew his Derry team would be promoted the moment they dismantled Longford in Pearse Park on the opening day of their Division Three campaign.

The Oak Leafers rubber stamped their return to the second tier with an ultimately comfortable 0-17 to 0-13 victory over a spirited Limerick in Carrick-on Shannon in the league semi-final on Saturday to make it four wins from four games. It may not have been Derry s most convincing display of an impressive 2021 but Gallagher said he had full confidence in his players once he saw his team defeat Longford by 16 points.

"I'm delighted for the boys to get promoted," explained the Derry manager, "Hand on heart, I had a pretty good idea we were going to after beating Longford. Part of me started thinking about the championship because we were at a really good level and we’ve backed it up with a number of very good displays.

"We respected Limerick but we knew if we produced a good display we felt we were the better team. They handled Shane and Niall reasonably well but it’s good now that we’re looking up. It’s on the journey to where we want to be. I’m happy.”

Rory Gallagher talks to his players during the second half water break against Limerick in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday. (Photo: Stefan Hoare)

While Offaly defeat of Fermanagh means there will be no league final, Saturday's victory was secured in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada takes Derry back to Division Two for the first time since 2017 and Gallagher believes Derry have to keep pushing forward.

“You look at the quality of players in Derry, the quality of the clubs and the underage coaching and Division Three is not where you should be. But you have to find a way out and the players take great credit for it.

“I don’t mind, if we’ve another game we play it," added the Derry manager before Offaly's victory was confirmed, "We’ve had four tough games and a challenge match. It’s tough run and we’re starting to pick up a few niggles so maybe a week’s rest wouldn’t be the worst thing.

“When teams drop off you and sit back I say to the players it’s a compliment. They fear you and they know you can rack up big scores and create a lot of opportunities. Once teams do that we have no problem with that either.

“We’re at a stage now where we can get a really consistent level of performance. It’s the fine wee areas like the opposition kick outs like being clinical up front. That’s the difference between us and the top teams in the country. Am I happy with the potential, the way we can dominate games and the quality? I am.”