Rory Gallagher positive about Derry display amid concerns over attacking mark
Derry manager Rory Gallagher says he was encouraged by what he saw from his players despite a McKenna Cup opening day defeat to Monaghan in Inniskeen on Sunday.
The new Oak Leaf boss handed out five debuts in a team still short of its Slaughtneil or Coleraine contingent with Declan Cassidy, Eoghan Duffy, Shea Downey, Oisin McWilliams and Alex Doherty all impressing on their first senior appearance.
It was a baptism of fire though for Derry's youthful line-up who found themselves 1-03 to no score behind only eight minutes in before recovering to lead by three midway through the second half. Monaghan's greater experience eventually helped them over the line but despite his disappointment at the scoreline, Gallagher had seen enough to know he has something to build on.
"The first reaction would be disappointment," explained the Oak Leaf boss, "After a very poor beginning, we looked very nervy and shaky. I think we played very well for the rest of the first half and for the first 15, 17 minutes of the second half I thought we were really good as well. We were in a position to win the game so it’s disappointing we didn’t push on and do that because we got ourselves into a great position.
"The (Monaghan) goal was an exceptionally disappointing goal to give away. It was from a sloppy turnover but we fought really well and controlled the game up until the mid-point of the second half, then got caught on a couple of our own kick-outs, and after that the game ran away from us a bit."
"There are a number of young fellas who haven’t played an awful lot. That’s the thing about the McKenna Cup, you’re accruing experience, getting ready for the league.
"It was a very poor start from us and if it goes much further than that it’s unassailable to come back. Listen, I was pleased with them. We dug in manfully and threatened a couple of goals. Monaghan showed some know-how to foul us in the right areas to stop the goals, in the first half.
"I’m delighted with 40, 45 minutes of that game, I thought we were outstanding, we controlled the ball and really looked a threat. It was tremendous leadership from Shea Downey, young Padraig McGrogan, Ciaran McFaul, Emmet Bradley’s only back, hasn’t been training, Sucky (Ryan Bell) up front as well.
"It was an exceptionally young full-back line but there are a few grizzled veterans we’re looking forward to getting back into the defence as well."
An intense opening period saw four Monaghan players booked inside 12 minutes and Gallagher admits Monaghan managed the game better at times.
"We met each other in a challenge game a few weeks ago so we knew what was coming down the track," he added
"I thought they showed an awful lot of maturity and know-how, Division One know-how, that we didn’t. We’re very naïve and that was reflected in how the game fell away from us in the second half, and also the start."
It was a quiet afternoon for the new attacking mark although Ryan Bell twice won ball he could 'marked' before opting to play on and Gallagher is not a fan or something he believes takes away from instinctive forward play.
"It's very difficult. It is not natural to put your hand up, you think you should play on. It is a difficult one - difficult for referees and difficult for defenders as well . Ryan ended up putting his two over the bar but he made harder work of it than maybe he should have.
"It is instinctive to play on. That's the thing I wouldn't enjoy from these new rules, it is taking away from what you have naturally done all your life.
"You would be annoyed at Ryan in that situation in that he made hard work of the two points when he should have just put his hand up and tapped the ball over the bar no problem.
"It is very difficult though to change something you have done all your life. It is challenging and something we are going to have to get better at."
Derry's final Section A game will be against Donegal in Celtic Park on January 8th when Gallagher is expecting to rotate his panel again to get more game-time into players.
"I think the 8th of January is time enough to be playing so we are glad to let the boys get over the New Year and then when we get into January, we will really get going.
"I'd be hoping to have Niall Loughlin, Jack Doherty got back in there today and hopefully Cathal Mulholland won't be too far away, Conor McAtamney came on for a while there at the end so we'd be hopeful we will have a few more players available."