Rory Gallagher says it's 'all to play for' ahead of Derry's massive league clash with Galway

Derry boss Rory Gallagher says only time will tell if Sunday’s draw against Roscommon was a point gained or point lost in the race to secure Division One football.

By Michael Wilson
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 5:00 pm

The Oak Leafers fought back brilliantly from six points down early in the second half of a game that saw 18 cards, including two blacks and two reds, one coming after an incredibly harsh call on Shane McGuigan which robbed Derry of their main free-taker prior to a late free which could have won the game.

“Every point you get in a division like this is a good point,” explained the Derry manager, “I’m pleased. We were six points down five minutes into the second half and fought back and we dominated the game, I’m disappointed we didn’t win it, but we have to move on.

“Time will tell, it’s a good point in a sense that it (promotion) is still in our own destiny and control and that’s a nice position to be in. We want to get to Division One, we have never hid that. We wanted to get it from early on in the campaign. We’ve got to now capitalise on it.

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Shane McGuigan was extremely harshly dismissed on a a second yellow card against Roscommon on Sunday.

“We were always going to get a day like today when we were on an unbelievable run. We had 11 league games and were leading in them all and leading in them all very comfortably. We knew it wasn’t going to be like that today. We are there, it’s a point I feel that gives us a brilliant opportunity to go to Division One.”

Tipperary referee Sean Longerman was the busiest man in Dr. Hyde Park in the second half with both teams having cause for complaint at decisions, Roscommon pointing to Cathal Heneghan being pulled back for an attacking free when he looked to be through on goal at 0-10 to 0-05.

Derry though could point to Oisin McWilliams being hauled down in the opening half in an identical incident to the one that saw McGuigan pick up his first yellow but there was no card for Roscommon while the Slaughtneil man was eventually shown a second yellow after twice being hauled to the floor by Brian Stack as he attempted to break forward late in the game. Gallagher had plenty of sympathy for the referee and said Roscommon had used all their considerable experience to stop Derry’s running game.

“Being brutally honest, I thought Roscommon were fairly cynical at times,” he admitted, “They were trying to stop our running game and showed all their Division One experience. They had a lot riding on the game but, look, being a referee is not an easy job. I’ve tried to referee training matches so I know it’s not easy.

“I thought it did get a bit out of hand at times but, again, it was a hard game to referee. From my point of view, we were trying to play all the football. I don’t believe we instigated too much of it but you’re not going to lie down either. Look, it’s not easy to referee.”

Billed as Derry’s first big test of a league campaign that has been relatively comfortable to date, the Dr. Hyde Park encounter more than delivered on its promise and Gallagher believes his players will be better for having had the test.

“That’s a test. You have to look at the great Dublin team, Liverpool or Man City, we are far from those levels, but we are trying to develop as a very top team and a team that plays very good teams and Roscommon are that. I have a lot of respect for them and for Anthony Cunningham and his management team. They are warriors. They have spent four years in Division One in the last seven and went up every other year, that’s a serious credit to any team.

“I felt we were the better team but at the same time we rode our luck a bit as well.

“Look, we needed a test. To be honest things have been a wee bit too easy for us and I thought we showed great heart, great character and a lot of quality but there are still a lot of areas we need improving.”

With Galway scoring a six point victory over Clare, Derry relinquished top spot in the table to the Tribesmen who are one point ahead on 10 going into next week’s mammoth encounter at Owenbeg. For Derry though the scenario remains simple - defeat Galway next week and you’re promoted.

“We’re a point better off than we were the last day,” added Gallagher, “I’d be disappointed we didn’t win the game. We had a number of chances we didn’t take but look, we are where we are now and it’s still in our hands. To come to Roscommon and show that battle when we were six points down, which is unusual territory for us, but we did it.

“It leaves us with everything to play for next week, needing to dig deep for an unbelievable performance. I’ll tell you one thing, I am looking forward to this week and getting going.”