Derry can learn from heartbreak of Ulster defeat to Donegal says Rory Gallagher
The Oak Leafers were the better team for the majority of a thrilling Ballybofey encounter but a failure to fully capitalise on a number of goal chances kept Donegal in the game. Indeed Derry had led from the seventh to the 70th minute before two late Paddy McBrearty points, the second an outrageous winner, finally took Donegal over the line at 0-16 to 0-15.
It was a bitter pill for Derry to swallow and a harsh lesson but Gallagher believes his players will return better for it.
"I am bitterly disappointed," explained the Derry boss, "You are disappointed when you lose any game. It was a big ask to come to Donegal, but it was one we felt we were good enough to win and we felt we were capable of being an Ulster heavyweight, but we came out on the wrong side of it.
"That's the way it is and you've to give Donegal massive credit. They never put their heads down, they are experienced. When we went 0-6 to 0-2, up they came back. When we went 0-12 to 0-8 up, they came back. When we equalised at 0-15 each, they dug it out. That's when you are short of their overall package and that's what we have to strive to get to.
"It is very hard to rock up and be a team. There is an awful lot made of Donegal's rise in 2011. Some of the media totally overestimated 2011 for Donegal because Donegal won a league in 2007. We are not coming from that stronghold. They won an All-Ireland U21 final in 2010. We are coming from further back than that. You want to be playing against these teams, that's the best to learn and it is no disrespect to the lower divisions, but it is the Tyrones, the Monaghans and the Armaghs you have to learn from.
"They learn how to win together and lose together. They don't get too up or they don't get too down."
Gallagher refused to point the finger at referee David Coldrick after Derry looked to be denied an early penalty when Stephen McMenamin clashed with Shane McGuigan.
"It could've been. It was very hard for me to say. I referee training games, sometimes they bounce with you and sometime they don't bounce with you," he explained.
"David is a top class referee and his officials all are. We are disappointed we didn't finish more chances than a couple of soft frees. We came out of the wrong side of a decision and there is nothing we can do now."
Derry's performance, if not the result, should strengthen the belief of the players that they can push for Division One next season and Gallagher said, on the whole, it had been a decent season even if Sunday left the squad with a number of 'what ifs'.
"Yes. Early on hitting the post and one thing or another but ultimately it was short. We are very, very disappointed naturally but also very proud of everybody involved with us from the County Board down the the players. From my own point of view I absolutely love being involved with them. It is a really enjoyable experience. There’s too much nonsense from people about commitment. Who wouldn't want to be putting everything into an environment lie today, trying to come out on the right side of it.
"It has been a good year to an extent. It has been a lot better year than it started last year, there is no doubt about that, but these players want to be playing at that level. We now just have to grind it out, we have to take it on the chin and learn very fast.
"I think we have learned a massive amount very quickly but we need to learn more."