GAA Football

Ciaran McFaul: Derry need to keep squad together to progress

Derry's Ciaran McFaul in action during the McKenna Cup clash with Donegal. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

DERRY star Ciaran McFaul says that Rory Gallagher's plans “change the culture” within Derry's setup depends on their ability to keep a squad together for the next few years.

The Oak Leafers began their Division Three campaign at the weekend with a disappointing and fortunate draw at home to Leitrim, with McFaul admitting “we robbed them, to be honest”.

They now face a trip to Newry on Saturday night where they will meet a Down side whose own hopes took an early jolt with a draw away to Tipperary.

Glen man McFaul’s first year at inter-county level was in 2012 when current Mourne boss Paddy Tally was Derry’s coach under Brian McIver, and since then Derry’s squad has never achieved any real level of continuity.

The players have noticed an increase in the demands in the first few months under Rory Gallagher, and McFaul believes keeping the current squad all together for the next few years will be central to the county’s development.

“It’s not a big change, it’s just the whole squad buying into what Rory’s asking us to do. It won’t be done overnight, it’s gonna take time. It’s a new squad, there’s a lot of new faces in it. It’ll take time to build that sort of trust for each other.

“He’s been there, done that and seen the teams that have put in the work, they’ve got the rewards from Ulster to All-Ireland titles.

“He knows Derry have good players but over the years, we probably haven’t done the work the top teams have done. It is a culture change to a degree, but it’s enjoyable. You’re in with a good setup and that’s half the battle.

“Our first meeting, the number of players every year that you don’t really know or haven’t really spoken to before is unreal. Other counties have that group of maybe 16, 18, 20 players that have been there for five or six years together, but it seems with Derry it’s different players every year.

“It’s hard to put the finger on it but we’ve been saying since about 2012 that it’s a young team, and it’s the same, people keep drifting away every year. That’s a challenge.

“Rory has put it up to us that we want to change the culture of Derry football at county level and build a good spirit among the team. The players are willing to do it.

“It’s massive. A lot of us are at that core age now, around the same age, and I have seen a big bond in the team this year.

“Everybody’s pulling together, which is a big thing. The last couple of years we probably haven’t had that.”

McFaul feels that the extra training sessions and team meetings this year have helped foster a togetherness in the squad.

“It’s the togetherness. Each night we’re together, we have to trust each other more and more. That’s why we’re spending a lot of time together.

“I think that’s why we’re have a lot of training sessions, a lot of meetings, just to get everyone that feel for each other.

“If you don’t have it around training, you’re not going to have it in a match.”

McFaul says there is big pressure on both teams ahead of Saturday night’s game after their failures to win their respective opening games, but believes any talk of a potential promotion is very premature.

“There will be upsets. It’s National League at the end of the day. County football, everyone’s good players and most teams are well set up.

“Instead of listening to any talk about promotion we need to maybe concentrate more on our performance and let the game take care of itself.

“The last day wasn’t good enough, performance wise, and we know that.”

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