Roscommon trip will be Derry's toughest test to date says Rory Gallagher

Allianz Leagues, Division Two: Roscommon v Derry (Sunday, Dr. Hyde Park, 2pm)

Derry manager Rory Gallagher says Sunday’s trip to Hyde Park, Roscommon represents the biggest obstacle Derry have faced to date in their quest to reach Division One football.

Gallagher’s Oak Leafers have won four from four after defeating Down, Offaly, Cork and Clare en route to sharing top spot in Division Two with Galway, another county with a perfect league record after four league games. Roscommon sit one point behind the top two on seven points after a draw with Clare in their third game and with a mini round robin between the trio to come, Gallagher knows their league fate will be decided over the final three games.

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“Without a shadow of a doubt this will be our toughest test yet,” agreed Gallagher, “Roscommon have spent four of the past seven years in Division One and in the other three years they came straight back up.

Derry boss Rory Gallagher talks to his players after their defeat of Clare in Ennis last time out.

“They will obviously have benefited from that time spent in Division One but are probably dissatisfied at not having established themselves in it. They are in a stronger opposition than anything we have faced up to this point in the season, there is absolutely no doubt about that.”

Roscommon, despite playing catch-up in the table, have both their promotion rivals at home over the final three fixtures with Derry entertaining Galway next weekend at Owenbeg.

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“It does look like the next couple of games will have a massive bearing on the promotion race, it should do,” admitted Gallagher, “Ourselves, Roscommon and Galway have to play off against each other and then we each have one game against different opposition so it’s going to tell a big tale but I don’t mean to sound boring but you do have to take it one game at a time.

“We have to make sure we do our end right and produce a really top level performance this week. If we do that, we are more than good enough to beat Roscommon but we have to go and do that.

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Rosommon were impressive 11-point winners over Down in Newry in their last outing with Conor Cox playing a starring role but a home draw with Clare (0-9 to 0-9), who Derry comfortably defeated in Ennis last time out, will give Derry every reason for confidence ahead of the trip south.

“Listen results, no matter what, are a reasonable indicator of what levels teams are at, albeit that day Roscommon played Clare was a phenomenally windy day. I think it was the day we played Cork and the breeze and conditions were exceptionally difficult. Look, they will be dissatisfied that they only drew the game. They’ll be building, the same as ourselves, and they’ll be looking forward to this game and to the Galway one.

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“They have ourselves and Galway both at home which is fairly decent from their point of view but we are not overly concerned with them. That seems a terrible thing to say but the opposition changes every week so it’s up to us to execute the game-plan the way we want to do, with and without the ball and on both sets of kick-outs.

“We have a number of players showing good form at the minute, not out of this world form, but if we can have some players playing to a phenomenally high level and the team as a whole playing really well I believe we are good enough to beat Roscommon regardless of what they bring.”

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Jack Doherty is Gallagher’s only injury concern with a slight foot injury but Ciaran McFaul, Gareth McKinless and Padraig Cassidy are all expected to be fit after a two week break from fixtures.

“We are very close to a fully fit squad. Jack Doherty has a bit of a foot injury that has been hampering for a couple of weeks but apart from that we are okay. Paudie Tad is back training and building his fitness back up and Ciaran and Gareth have obviously trained since the Clare match as well so, no, we are very happy with how things are looking.

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“It is not a bad thing, you don’t mind the break. It allows you to refocus and I suppose you are used to it with the National League. You know about the breaks and therefore you plan with them in mind so you don’t really consider if they are beneficial or not. You try to make the breaks beneficial for yourself by using the time as best you can and that was our attitude.”

Victory on Sunday would represent a huge step toward promotion and Gallagher said players should relish the challenge of big matches.

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“Myself, Ciaran and the rest of the management team sitting down at the start of the year, you want the latter part of the league to be big games for all the right reasons,” he explained, “You want big games to try and be in the promotion shake up.

“We have looked after our business relatively comfortably up to this point. We have made sure, number one, there is no chance of relegation and now there’s a massive prize on offer so, yeah, it’s a huge game so it’s up to us to perform at a huge level, probably the best level we have yet.”

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