More than 28,000 spectators are expected to descend on the Monaghan venue on Sunday for a game that could have sold out twice over such has been the scramble for tickets among Derry, Donegal and GAA fans across Ulster. It’s Derry’s first appearance in the provincial showpiece since 2011 and will be a new experience for most of the Oak Leaf panel but Gallagher is fully confident his player can deal with the occasion.
“It can be a bit about coping with the occasion but I tend to think top level players just cope with it,” explained the Derry manager, “It’s something to be enjoyed but not really something we would even be talking about to be honest. I trust the players at this stage to have the temperament for it. They have turned up on two big days so far this year and they turned up last year, albeit there was no crowd. They’ve turned up regularly for their clubs and at big underage games so I don’t see it as an issue.
“It’s something to be enjoyed, a packed house in Clones with two teams going at it.”
There was good news this week with the return to training of Greenlough forward Niall Loughlin who was taken off as a precaution during the semi-final victory over Monaghan in the Armagh Athletic Grounds.
“Niall is good,” explained the Derry boss, “We got him scanned after he felt a bit of tightness in his hamstring against Monaghan, but we got a very good result. He doesn’t have a hamstring issue, it’s a bit of an issue from a back problem he had previously and that appears to be well settled down now.”
With impressive victories over Tyrone and Monaghan secured, Gallagher admits the element of surprise - such as it was - has disappeared for his emerging Derry panel, not that the Oak boss was keen to describe either win as a ‘shock’.
“I’d be surprised if some people felt it was a surprise that we have won a couple of games,” he smiled, “I feel that we have been at a good level for a while. We’ve obviously had difficult days, the Galway day was a difficult one, Donegal last year as well, but that element of surprise has gone about us, there’s no doubt about that.
“I also think that Tyrone, Monaghan, Donegal, Armagh - whoever it was at the time - those management teams will have respected us massively before those games. They will have been aware of what we are good at just as we are aware of what they are good at.
“There’s not much between the top four or five teams in Ulster and Donegal will know that. Tyrone, Monaghan, ourselves, we all know that. You just have to make sure on the day you give your best and perform as well as you can.”