Derry can turn attentions to promotion bid claims Rory Gallagher after convincing Cork victory

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Rory Gallagher says Derry can now turn their attentions towards mounting a promotion bid after securing a third straight Division Two victory of the season against Cork in Owenbeg on Sunday.

The 1-13 to 0-07 victory means Derry top Division Two on six points, one clear of Roscommon, who drew with Clare, and two above Galway whose game against Offaly fell foul of the inclement weather. Next up for Gallagher's men is a tough trip to Ennis but the Oak boss admitted his side have a perfect base upon which to build.

"It's a good position to be in," said Gallagher after Sunday's nine point win, "When you come up out of a division you want to make sure you get enough points to stay in the new division and while I wouldn't say six guarantees you that, with our score difference and one thing and another we're not in a bad position and we can look forward to Clare next week.

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"Probably in the back of your head that (promotion) was always your intention but definitely now it's something we are trying to do but we have to go to Clare and they're a team that apart from those yo-yo teams, they have been the next best team over the past five, six seven years so we will have to focus on getting a really good performance."

Lachlan Murray scores a point for Derry against Cork at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2208GS – 005Lachlan Murray scores a point for Derry against Cork at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2208GS – 005
Lachlan Murray scores a point for Derry against Cork at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2208GS – 005

Billed as the first 'big' league test of this rejuvenated Derry side, Gallagher's squad passed with flying colours after a game they should have won even more convincingly, a fact all the more remarkable considering both Ciaran McFaul and Gareth McKinless missed out through injury while the unfortunate Karl McKaigue has been ruled out for the remainder of the county season.

The result was Derry's 10th successive league victory, a run that stretches back to March 2020 and a Division Three defeat to, ironically, Cork with Gallagher acknowledging the progress his team has made since that 3-13 to 3-11 defeat in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

"Cork was a big milestone in our heads to be honest," added Gallagher, "(It was) The last game before Covid hit this country and hit the world and we got a two point annihilation down there. We got a few goals but it was a shambolic set-up at the time but I don't think we have lost a league game since. We've lost a couple of championship games but we've turned a corner.

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"Obviously Cork are going through a transition and that's their business, we're not to concerned with that. We're delighted with the commitment of our players, the loyalty to each other and the direction we are going.

"I'm delighted because we haven't had the preparation I would have liked. Obviously given Slaughtneil's and Glen's longevity in the club competition it has been quite difficult for those players to come back.

"I have really enjoyed these two weeks since the Offaly game to get the bodies right, the likes of Ethan (Doherty), Conor Glass, Shane (McGuigan), Chrissy (McKaigue), Emmet Bradley, getting a bit of quality work into them was good."

Despite Shane McGuigan's personal tally of 0-08, it was the performances of Padraig McGrogan, Conor McCluskey and Oisin McWilliams which caught the eye in Owenbeg and Gallagher says he delighted to see the increased competition for places among his increasingly mature squad.

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"They are," came the replay from Gallagher when asked if the likes of McGrogan and McWilliams were becoming leaders within the panel.

"Look, we are giving Lachlan (Murray) game-time and Odhran is really developing as a goalkeeper. We'll very much welcome Gareth (McKinless) and Ciaran (McFaul) back, Paudie Tad is another one who is just easing his way back in after limited training.

"It's no more than the likes of Armagh, Monaghan who can be missing players; Tyrone and Donegal, the top teams in this province, we want to be like that and you just cannot do that with 13, 14 of 15 players.

"You can see it developing and that's down to the boys in training with their commitment to each other. None of them is huffing. Shea (Downey) had a great game against Offaly and played all the McKenna Cup but Chrissy came back in and he had to settle to a place on the bench. I'm sure he's not happy in his own head but he puts the team first and we very much appreciate all that from everybody."