Rory Gallagher admits to player safety concerns before Tipperary clash

Allianz Leagues, Division Three

Monday, 10th February 2020, 5:03 pm
Derry's Ciaran McFaul battles with a packed Tipperary midfield in Celtic Park on Sunday. DER0720-108KM

A relieved Rory Gallagher admitted he had concerns over player safety ahead of Sunday’s storm battered victory over Tipperary in Celtic Park.

With the pitch only passed fit to play less than 90 minutes before the 1pm throw-in, conditions were far from ideal but Derry adapted better to register a first league victory of the year, albeit in a game than won’t live long in the memory.

The Derry manager said he sympathised with his Tipp counterpart, David Power, who felt the game should have been cancelled on Friday but said they had to abide by the decision made.

“Yeah, I would have been concerned with player safety, none of us are groundsmen, or certainly I’m not, but we were definitely concerned and then you have to look at the quality of the game,” explained Gallagher after the 0-10 to 0-06 win.

“It was very difficult to play free flowing football. I know there are people shouting, ‘Let the ball in’ and things like that but it’s very difficult, the ball just sticks.

“There was a mountain of sand put on the pitch but when Tipp were up and they made the decision, you just have to go with it.

“I can sympathise with David, I talked to him before the game. We were making some queries toward Croke Park but they were quite clear, the games were going ahead and I can understand because the storm hasn’t hit yet the way it was proposed but then look at the way the quality of the pitch went.

“Once Tipp were up they wanted to play though and the only thing is, it’s always the same for both teams.”

Despite the pre-match difficulties, Derry produced a controlled display to move up into third in the table and rekindle hopes of a potential promotion charge. Derry remain two points off second placed Longford, who visit Celtic Park in Round 6, and three behind leaders Cork with a March 1st trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh also still to come.

“We have an open mind about the league,” added Gallagher, “We want to be better at the end of the league than we were at the start. That’s the approach, particularly when you come in with a new group.

“We are trying to build a consistency here. We have put it out to the boys. Obviously I’m not from Derry but looking in from the outside, the turnover of players, in and out of the squad, the lack of consistency in selection, lack of togetherness - we are trying to build something to combat that.

“We think the age profile of the squad is really good and we know there is good talent that has come through in Derry so it’s a matter now of sticking together.

“Inter county football, bar maybe if you are playing for Dublin at the minute, it’s full of ups and downs for every county. It is a test of character and generally it is the people who are mentally toughest and the strongest characters win out.”

On the match itself, while pleased with the result and periods of the game on a very difficult surface in gale force conditions, Gallagher still believes Derry need to become more clinical.

“When it was 0-9 to 0-4, you’d have liked to have seen us push on but to be honest I thought there were one or two soft frees again.

“We didn’t push on and then we overplayed ball and dropped a couple short. Alex (Doherty) had a couple of efforts, we had Sammy’s goal chance, Danny’s chance and rather than maybe stretching the game out to 1-11 or 1-12, it leaves it a bit more nervy than it should have been.

“The boys were saying they haven’t beaten a team ranked as high as Tipperary in a number of years so that probably leads to a bit of fear.

“I had watched Tipp in both their games and both days they could have lost yet they ended up with three points so we knew they were very resilient. They have been in an All Ireland U21 final in 2015 and were All Ireland semi-finalists in 2016, you know they have good pedigree.

“It’s good but what I would be most pleased with was that I thought we were, by a stretch, the better team.”

Gallagher has been full of praise for the attitude and work ethic of the Derry squad since taking over but stressed there are bigger challenges to come as Derry try to chase down a spot in Division Two for next season and with it a spot at Championship football’s top table.

“From speaking to the boys, they are not even thinking about that (Tier Two) at this moment in time. They just want to go out and play better for Derry and build something. Naturally, none of us want to be in tier two but that’s the hand we have been dealt. We are in Division Three with its relative pressures and all but right now we just want to concentrate on Louth.

“We want to hopefully get two points against Louth and then got to Cork for a big battle but we have to look after our business against Louth first.

“At the start of the year, while the boys worked very, very hard, it was difficult to get a pre-season when you don’t have your players. Obviously there was the Slaughtneil players and Liam McGoldrick and a number of injuries but they are starting to come right, some of them at least.

“Over the past few weeks I feel there are a number of things we have improved on, key areas of the game. Can we be better? Absolutely but I am happy that the boys are mad keen to learn. I’m happy at the skill level and happy at the attitude. Now we have to test ourselves over the next few weeks.