Rory Gallagher delighted to get Derry season off to wining start - even if it wasn't perfect!

Derry manager Rory Gallagher admitted he wasn't expecting too much from his side's first outing of the season with the focus still firmly on preparations for the National League opener against Limerick on January 28th.

There were obvious early season signs in the opening half against Fermanagh as players struggled with the slippery conditions but Derry eventually wrestled control back from the dogged home side to win with a bit to spare. It was deserved, if uninspiring stuff - exactly what the Oak Leaf boss had been expecting given his side's pre-season schedule.

"People were asking me, ‘What did you make of Fermanagh v Tyrone?’, and I said ‘Not great – but ours will be something similar!’" smiled Gallagher after Sunday's 0-11 to 1-04 victory in Ederney.

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"We hadn’t played any challenge games, or anything like that; we just wanted to get our bodies fit and ready to go. We’re just glad that the Slaughtneil boys got a couple of sessions under their belt, Gareth (McKinless) came back from skiing just the other day, so it’s just good to get playing.

IMPRESSIVE . . .Derry’s Lachlan Murray. (Photo: George Sweeney.)

“We’re into pre-season - we have a match today, a match Wednesday and we’re happy enough with the overall fitness of the squad, bar Shea and Matthew (Downey), a couple of wee niggles, and Paul McNeill. Everybody else is good, they’ll all be back in the next couple of days. It's just good to get a game."

Garvan Jones' first half goal had Fermanagh ahead by a point at the break and the Erne county hit seven quite scorable wides as they fed off a Derry team finding their feet in the opening half but Gallagher was happy with how his team responded.

“Listen, if it wasn’t for a bad goal we gave away we would have been in control, even playing against a strong breeze in the first half," he explained, "It was bad conditions, although in fairness the pitch is brilliant, but the rain leaves it very slippy.

“I thought Clucky (Conor McCluskey) was good, Paudie McGrogan as well, Chrissy (McKaigue) didn’t give Ultan Kelm a kick but 'Man of the match' in January isn’t overly important to us.

“It worked a wee bit (for Fermanagh) but I thought it was more down to our indiscipline with the ball in the first half, maybe with it being our first day out, and we had no cover as well. To be fair to them, they took the goal well but we hit the post a couple of times, missed a couple of easy frees, and burned a couple of goal chances. I’d like to think we should have had 2-13 or 2-14, but we didn’t."

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Derry start 2023 with Fermanagh victory after improved second half display
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Eoin McEvoy and Lachlan Murray both did well, the latter grabbing two lovely points, and Gallagher says he's looking forward to seeing how they developed alongside fellow All Ireland minor winning heroes Matthew Downey and Mark Doherty.

“In Eoin, in Lachlan (Murray), in Matthew (Downey), and Mark Doherty we have four guys who won an All-Ireland Minor three years (ago) and we would see an awful lot of future around them. There’s the addition of Paudie ‘Tad’ (Cassidy) back in. We want to give the likes of Paul Cassidy more exposure, ‘Clucky’ (Conor McCluskey), they’re not that long in the team. We want to give them as many games as we can, we’ll treat the McKenna Cup like that.

“Listen, we don’t keep a big squad. We played 18 players there. We’ll see where Shea is at for coming back in the next day. We want to get games into our main players, to be honest. We have a small squad and the idea is ‘survival of the fittest’ – if you’re doing well, you get playing," he added.