Next two weeks can be best of Derry players' lives, says Rory Gallagher ahead of Ulster Final
Rory Gallagher believes the Derry players can make the next two weeks the ‘best of their lives’ as they prepare for a first Ulster Senior Football Championship Final since 2011.
Just like a decade ago, Donegal will once again provide the opposition after the Oak Leafers caused a second championship shock with Sunday’s thrilling 3-12 to 0-17 victory over Monaghan before almost 15,000 fans in the Armagh Athletic Grounds.
Goals from Gareth McKinless and Benny Heron (2) laid the foundation for a brilliant performance but even amid the jubilant on pitch scenes afterwards, Gallagher was stressing that every Ulster victory brings a bigger date just around the corner.
“Yes, we have a huge two weeks ahead now but it can be two of the best weeks in these players’ lives,” explained the Derry manager, “We have to stay in the moment, stay really focused, keep enjoying it but keep the feet on the ground which the players will - we’ll make sure they do - and crucially, we have to keep going.
“We had Monaghan worked out in the first half I thought. I felt they struggled for their six points. Look, they finished with a good score and they were always going to come at us because they are a good team but we have to park this now. We have to relax and really look forward for two weeks time. What happened here is great but you have to keep going, you have to keep moving forward.”
Sunday’s victory was built on a superb first half display that saw Derry lead by seven at the break with Gareth McKinless’ opening goal the cue for a surge of confidence throughout Derry players and supporters, with the Derry boss Gallagher admitting the strike was worth more than just the three points to his team.
“Goals are massive and probably the style of goal, with Gareth going through, it felt like five points to be honest,” added Gallagher, “But we continued to play and I felt we probably made a couple of mistakes as well but look, that’s the way it goes.
“It was a very tough game but it was always going to be. Monaghan are a team that never lies down. Even if we had have gone 12 points up they would have came back at us and we knew that. We were seven up at half-time and unless we got the first few scores of the second half and pushed it out to nine or 10, it was always going to be a battle.”
McKinless' goal was teed up by Ethan Doherty who had a sublime match, setting up two goals and producing perhaps the moment of the match with a breathtaking last ditch tackle to deny Micheal Bannigan a goal that would have tied the game at 1-02 midway through the opening half.
“Look, from day one Ethan’s come in and he has a ‘genius’ quality. I don’t sit and have coffee with Ethan, I don’t sit and go through things, he’s simply a brilliant footballer,” explained Gallagher, "He has been developed by his family, by Glen, by his schools and he comes in to us and he just loves it. He is a brilliant trainer, a brilliant lad and I’m just delighted for him and every one of the players.
“We just want to keep going now. All I want is for the players, their families, for the management is to fulfil their potential and to try to keep moving forward.”