Derry manager Rory Gallagher. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Rory Gallagher on 2012: 'There is a lot more coaching, it was a lot more basic then'

Eighth Ulster final in 12 seasons for Gallagher as manager or coach.

THERE ARE MOMENTS in this Derry team’s evolution when you are waiting for the ‘Ballybofey moment.’

What we mean by that is the precise moment this correspondent looked out on a sodden Donegal Saturday evening and just knew that Donegal were going to win the 2012 All-Ireland.

Out on the pitch, they had beaten Derry in a quarter-final, 2-13 to 0-9.

But it was the evidence at first hand and the stories that emerged from that game that hammered the belief home.

On the pitch, Anthony Thompson was marking Derry’s creative playmaker Conleith Gilligan. When Donegal got the ball, he embarked on lung-busting runs every single time that didn’t finish until he reached the Derry endline.

Donegal were not using him in the attack, but Gilligan still felt duty-bound to go after him. After half an hour, he was exhausted and out on his feet.

Around the pitch, Donegal commanded each other to ‘squeeze’ the play and the area. They talked to each other constantly and kept up a constructive dialogue, never bitching at each other.

Mysteriously, they referred to getting ‘Paul’ on the ball in the attack. But Donegal had no outfield player called ‘Paul.’

And yet, that was then. A tally of 2-13 wouldn’t win a huge amount of the really big games. Although he was assistant manager of that Donegal team, when Rory Gallagher looks back now he sees that set-up as, well, almost quaint. Simpler times, perhaps.

“The game has changed,” he said after Derry’s defeat of Monaghan.

“It’s a much different game from it was in 2011, 2012, there is a lot more coaching, it was a lot more basic then. That’s the challenge for myself, and Ciaran (Meenagh) and Peter (Hughes) and Enda (Muldoon).”

Here’s a stat to consider: no manager has cast a shadow over the last decade and a bit of the Ulster championship as much as Gallagher. He was in the final as coach to Donegal in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In 2014, he wasn’t involved in intercounty senior management after his split with Jim McGuinness. He was back as Donegal manager for the finals of 2015 and 2016. He brought Fermanagh to the 2018 decider.

And now he has Derry in the big day out again, after winning their first in 24 years, last year. And Derry have only won back to back Ulster finals once before in their history, 1975 and 1976.

He comes up against either Conor Laverty or Kieran McGeeney after Down meet Armagh. No matter who comes out of that side, there will be an enormity of pressure, fanfare and every sheep within the county boundaries being daubed in red and black or else orange.

In short, both counties will lose the run of themselves. Surely it has to be an advantage to Gallagher and Derry?

“Well look, the Conor Laverty management team, the Armagh management team have an awful lot of experience as well,” Gallagher bats back.

“From my own point of view, it’s helped. You understand more. It might not seem it but you are a lot more calmer in your approach.

“You are a lot more driven, more centred in what you want to do, day in and day out.”

Right now he says, despite outward appearances – and he picked up a yellow card in this game after some exchange or other – he feels Zen.

“We have had as relaxed a week this week as we ever had. We had training camp last weekend (in Downings, Donegal).

“The Dublin games were massive for us. The Galway game, Donegal last year, Monaghan was a test for us. We want to experience that. The Derry boys know it better than anybody.

“We just want to fulfil our potential. The destination is obvious; you want to be provincial and All-Ireland champions. But you just can’t look that far. It’s the road that you go and the direction you take to that is very fulfilling.

“From our point of view, it’s about fulfilling the potential and you could actually live with losing some games if you do that. To be able to compete with the heavyweights of the sport is something else.”

No player has developed quite as much as goalkeeper Odhran Lynch, who continues to provide ample entertainment in becoming the first goalkeeper to score from play in consecutive Ulster championship games against Monaghan, following the first round against Fermanagh.

odhran-lynch Odhran Lynch. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“Again, the challenge I would have seen with Odhran from early doors is he is a phenomenal talented individual. He has to stay very focussed and driven. That’s my responsibility and Ronan (Gallagher, his brother and goalkeeping coach) and we know that,” says Gallagher.

“But I just think he has a great talent and an innate ability to play football at a high level. The occasion doesn’t get to him.

“In saying that, there are mistakes. But I believe what I ask off him is very difficult to perform, but he does that and we will keep driving that. The standard of the top teams in Ireland has gone up, and Odhran is a part of that.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel