Niall Loughlin boost as Derry prepare for huge Tipperary test in Celtic Park

Allianz Leagues, Division Three: Derry v Tipperary (Sunday, Celtic Park, 1pm)

Saturday, 8th February 2020, 1:51 pm
Niall Loughlin's return to training is a timely boost for Derry ahead of this weekend's visit of Tipperary to Celtic Park.

Niall Loughlin’s return to training has provided Derry with a timely boost ahead of this Sunday’s crucial Division Three encounter with Tipperary in Celtic Park (throw-in 1.00pm).

The Greenlough forward has yet to feature this season after hurting his back before the start of the season but his timely return provides another option for Rory Gallagher who has challenged his team to be more clinical in the final third.

“We are working off pretty much the same panel as last week bar the Under 20s,” explained the Derry manager, “Niall Loughlin got back and did a bit of training this week so we have to see how Niall is between now and Sunday.

“He had been going really well until he hurt his back and he would give us more attacking options. It has been a slower process than we all hoped for but with a bit of luck he won’t be too far away.”

Gallagher will be without Under 20 forward Ben McCarron after the Steelstown forward injured his mouth playing for Ulster University, an injury which also means he is unavailable for the Under 20s Ulster Championship opener against Fermanagh tomorrow (Saturday).

McCarron’s fellow Under 20, Alex Doherty will be available to Mickey Donnelly’s side but there is also the chance he could feature for the seniors.

Derry go into Sunday’s fixture two points behind Tipp after David Power’s side drew with Down in their opener and then fought back to defeat Louth in injury time last week. Despite no Michael Quinlivan, they still boasts a number of players who featured in the 2016 All Ireland semi-final and Gallagher says no one will be underestimating the threat the Munster men bring.

“The way the fixtures fell, we have had the opportunity to watch them twice which is always good,” adds the Derry manager, “In both games they really ground out the result even when the games seemed to be going against them for long periods.

“They have a bit of resilience built up and still have a number of players who would have played in the All Ireland semi-final and they are very dominant in their team so they have plenty of experience.

“The first two games have shown you have to keep going against Tipperary. In both matches they played on pitches that were fairly heavy which I don’t think suits their style of play. Obviously Celtic Park will be a better surface but I suppose with the weather forecast you don’t know what conditions could be like and we have to concentrate on ourselves.”

Derry’s inability to take chances cost them in a frantic finale in Pairc Esler but Gallagher defended his mental strength and says they will continue to improve because the work they are putting in.

“From our point of view, whatever has gone on over the past number of years has went on. We are trying to build a new team and there are a number of new players in it. We feel the age profile of the squad, and the players we want to work with, is very, very good. We are just trying to build that understanding of each other, that spirit among each other and that composure.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the belief of the players. They have a very good attitude coming into training, they are very, very keen to learn. They are intelligent players and are picking up the things we want them to pick up and if we continue to make improvements in the performances then the results will naturally look after themselves.

“We have an open mind as to where we are at at the minute but the main aim is to be better week on week.

“The league is only starting to take a bit of shape and we are not too worried where everyone else is in the table. We went into this with a very open minds and with the main aim of being much better by the end of the league than we were at the start so we want to get an improved performance again at the weekend.

“We want to be a bit more clinical with our opportunities because we felt last week we didn’t make the most of some of the goal chances we had. We missed a couple of other chances as well from placed balls and open play, chances that we think should have seen up put up a much bigger score.”