GAA Football

Derry players have same ambition as Derry boss Gallagher: Brendan Rogers

Brendan Rogers was part of a Derry side that cantered to promotion from Division Three last year - and the Oak Leafs hope to keep that momentum going in 2022. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

DERRY have to build on the progress made during 2021– and Brendan Rogers insists the players' ambitions match that of their manager as they bid to make a splash in next year's Championship.

With the county's U20s landing the delayed 2020 All-Ireland back in July, and plenty of other talent on the way through, many have predicted a bright future for the Oak Leafs as Rory Gallagher continues to plot for the future.

Gallagher has openly stated he believes Derry pack the potential to become one of the top counties in Ireland and, with neighbours Tyrone having shown what is possible to all their Ulster rivals after lifting the Sam Maguire Cup in September, the Fermanagh native is determined to build on a promising 2021.

And Rogers believes the Oak Leafs - who will face either the Red Hands or Fermanagh in the 2022 Ulster opener - are on the right track heading into the new year.

“You look at the club success, the underage success, so you can't say there's not talent there,” says the 27-year-old.

“We probably just needed something to bring that all together and with Rory's vision, how he works with players, his management of players, that's all possible.

“He's getting everybody to sing off the same hymn-sheet and it's probably something we haven't had this last few years. One positive action leads to another, and you'd hope after a good year last year, this one would follow on.

“The Donegal game was disappointing but looking back on it over time, have we made good progress as a team? Absolutely. Has that been largely down to the management guiding us? Certainly.

“Rory's right to have that vision [that Derry can be among the top counties in Ireland]. If you don't have that, what's the point? If you're not going to aim big, what's the point? That's the competition you're in, why would you not aim for winning it?

“He's been there before and knows what it's like to be in big games, how to win big games, that's the kind of ambitious person and the kind of experience you want as part of your management.”

While the players from county football champions Glen, Maghera could return to the fold in the coming weeks following their Ulster club exit to Kilcoo, Gallagher will have to wait a while longer to have the Slaughtneil contingent back.

The likes of Rogers, the McKaigue brothers - Chrissy and Karl - Paul McNeill and star forward Shane McGuigan are currently preparing for a January 23 All-Ireland Club SHC semi-final showdown against whoever comes out of the Munster final between Ballygunner and Kilmallock.

That means they won't be involved through the Dr McKenna Cup and, depending how they get on, could keep them away from the county scene for the opening weeks of Derry's National League Division Two campaign – which begins against Down on January 29.

Rogers loves being on a roll, but admits at times like this the split season has little pay-off.

“It's not split for teams that are successful,” he laughs.

“There's not too many other sports would have such an overlap in terms of playing levels – inter-county and club being two separate things.

“That's where it changes from a hobby to a lifestyle. You just live that lifestyle, you adapt to it and focus all your energy on it. Generally the people that spend the most time and are the most diligent become the most successful – as Derry players we're still trying to get to that level, but the appetite's there.

“I'm sure Rory would love to have us back, but that's the joys of the split season. We will be looking forward to next year.”

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