Tyrone draw whets Rory Gallagher's appetite as Derry face Down

Rory Gallagher believes Wednesday's dramatic draw with Tyrone will only whet the appetite for the new football season as Derry prepare to travel to Pairc Esler for Sunday's McKenna Cup semi-final against Down (1.30pm).

Lachlan Murray's brilliant injury time score secured the point and it was enough to take Derry through as best runners-up after they had fought back from six points down two minutes into the second period. The celebrations as Murray's kick found the 'black spot' spoke of a rivalry renewed with the Red Hands and the Oak Leaf boss is relishing another test against a rejuvenated Ulster rival.

"It was establish that once their (Down's) teams were knocked out of the club championship they were running up hills," explained Gallagher, "Down haven’t been happy with where they were.

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"We are looking forward to that challenge, it is going to be daunting in that it’s in Newry but sure that is what football is about and we want to give our players as many games as possible. Two and a half years ago, we made a decision to play Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Odhran Lynch, 'CD' (Conor Doherty), 'Clucky' (Conor McCluskey), Paudi (McGrogan).

Derry’s Lachlan Murray evades a challenge from Nathan McCarron of Tyrone during the Dr McKenna Cup game at Owenbeg on Wednesday. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2302GS – 10

"We want to start more players on the journey; Mark Doherty, Eoin McEvoy, Niall O’Donnell, Lachlan, Matthew Downey when he gets himself right, Anton is part of it, Ben McCarron, Oisin McWilliams."The McKenna Cup is not high on the list or priorities but at the same time playing Tyrone whets the appetite and playing Down in Newry should whet the appetite too."

Gallagher confirmed that Conor Glass would captain the Oak Leaf county in 2023 and was full of praise for the start to the year made by Murray who followed up tow wonderful points against Fermanagh by stepping up in dramatic fashion against Tyrone midweek.

"Lachlan stood up really, really well and it all didn’t go his way early on the game," added the Derry boss, "We took a decision to play him because he is an outstanding player. Niall O’Donnell got in today, Anton (Tohill) got in. Mark Doc (Doherty), Eoin McEvoy, they are all very young lads"County football is tough, they’re going to have setbacks during games and after games, that’s what we want them to experience. You want to be in battles like that when you are blooding new players and young players."