GAA Football

"Wherever, whenever, you've to be there and everybody is there..." Rory Gallagher team ethos paying dividends in Derry says Paul Cassidy

Paul Cassidy scored two points as Derry saw off dogged Monaghan in last Sunday's Ulster semi-final. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

THE entire Derry squad had to pull their socks up when Rory Gallagher came in as manager for the 2020 season.

Gallagher inherited a group of players that had plenty of untapped potential but was short on belief and unity of purpose. The transformation has been spectacular: This year he took them to the brink of Division One and now they are looking forward to a first Ulster final in 11 seasons.

Half-forward Paul Cassidy explained how the Derry players have bought into Gallagher’s team ethos. When the Belleek native says ‘jump’, the only question is: ‘How high?’

“He has brought a lot of belief in,” said the Bellaghy clubman.

“The connection and togetherness he has brought in is immense. He’s strict with everything, if he tells you to be there, you have to be there, no excuses. It’s as simple as that.

“Wherever, whenever, you’ve to be there and everybody is there, everybody is training – no excuses - and if you’re injured you’re there as well watching the training so you can listen to what he says and then you do your rehab stuff afterwards.

“You get more out of it. Everybody trusts their team-mates even more, there’s far more togetherness in the team. It’s great, the past few months have been great in training. We were looking forward to the Championship and now we’re in a final.”

The Ulster final is new to this Derry group but their manager has been there and done that. Gallagher has been to provincial deciders with his native Fermanagh and with Donegal, Derry’s opponents on May 28.

If Derry take home the Anglo-Celt, they’ll certainly have earned it. The Oak Leafers came through the challenge of All-Ireland champions Tyrone with a handsome win and backed it up with an equally impressive 3-12 to 0-17 victory over Monaghan on Sunday.

“We had to back it up,” said Cassidy.

“Tyrone weren’t at their best and we knew Monaghan were going to be far tougher and more dogged and they were. In the second half they showed that but we dug in deep and got over the line.

“We kept our heads. There were a few moments when they got on top of us but we kept the ball and we kept chipping away at the scores and that kept us in the lead.”

Waiting for Derry in Clones will be their north-west neighbours Donegal. Since beating Derry in 2011 decider, Donegal have contested nine (including this year’s) finals and won four. Last year Declan Bonner’s men beat an emerging Derry side by a point at the quarter-final stage.

“We have to overturn what they did to us last year and hopefully we’ll get over the line,” said Cassidy.

“We were close last year, some say we should have won, but we lost by a point. I think the team knows we can do much better than we did last year.

“They’ve been to plenty of finals, (Michael) Murphy will be their leader and he’ll want to lead them the whole way so it’ll be a tough test but we’re looking forward to it, definitely. It’s the first final for Derry in (11) years and the fans and the team will be buzzing for it.”

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