Derry manager Rory Gallagher. Lorcan Doherty/INPHO
Rory's story

'The man is just a complete obsessive about football'

Derry boss Rory Gallagher faces his former Donegal side in tomorrow’s Ulster final.

WHAT MAKES RORY Gallagher a good coach?

“I think it’s just his football intellect is off the charts, you know,” Maxi Curran responds immediately.

The duo have worked closely together through the years, most notably with Donegal. Both under Jim McGuinness, combining for the 2012 All-Ireland win, before Curran later found himself in Gallagher’s backroom team.

They have both since veered away from the Tír Chonaill men’s set-up though, with Curran the long-time ladies’ manager and Gallagher most recently working his magic with Derry.

The Oak Leaf county feature in their first Ulster final since 2011 tomorrow. Against who else, but Donegal. (And, of course, it was they who triumphed 11 years ago, with Gallagher in McGuinness’ backroom team.)

After enduring a decade in which they won just one Ulster championship game, Derry have gone back-to-back with massive victories over All-Ireland champions Tyrone and Monaghan. It’s now all about finishing the job in Clones [throw-in 4pm, live on RTE 2 and BBC One NI] and ending a 24-year wait for provincial glory.

Gallagher has come in for serious praise in recent weeks, having now steered three different teams to Ulster finals. He’s been labelled “a genius” by his players, and Curran echoes that sentiment, having seen it all first-hand through the years. 

maxi-curran-and-rory-gallagher Maxi Curran and Rory Gallagher on the line in 2017. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“We all were sick to death of podcasts and one thing or another during lockdown,” he picks up, “but any of the ones you listened to with Rory, the way he rhymes off stats and facts and figures and scores and scorers and teams, games that could be going back 15-20 years, it’s just phenomenal.

“The man is just a complete obsessive about football, and there’s not a player in the country that he couldn’t tell you 10 things about. He has that level of interest and always always had that level of interest; his attention to detail, he really scrutinises the opposition really well.

“I think he has got a great affinity with players, he has got a great way of connecting with players and he really gets players to play for him, and you see that in Derry now. And even in Fermanagh, whatever he does in Derry, getting Fermanagh so close to Division 1 and to an Ulster final is probably as good an achievement as he will ever do. Even though there was no silverware at the end of it, you have got to look at it from the achievement overall and not just medals and trophies.

“Whether Derry get over the line on Sunday or not, he has brought them to the top table. I know they were very disappointed they didn’t get promoted to Division 1 as well but that’s probably not very far away.”

Gallagher is in his third season in the Derry job. Last summer, they pushed Donegal all the way in the Ulster semi-final. A late, great Paddy McBrearty free-kick was ultimately the difference that day.

Again, it is they who stand in the way of a first Anglo Celt Cup lift since 1998.

Gallagher, of course, has the inside track on Donegal, but Curan doesn’t believe that’s a major benefit.

“I don’t think so because I think there is so much known about everybody nowadays, so many games are televised live and every management at that level knows everything about every player anyway, it’s how you use the knowledge that you have is the one.

“Look, he’ll know the Donegal players inside out but Donegal would have played Mayo a couple of years ago and Stephen Rochford was in the backroom team, that happens a lot now with people swapping over and back.

“I don’t think it’s as big a deal as people make it out to be, I think it’s what you do with the information you have is the key and I think Rory has a proven track record of handling that well, so it’s going to be a really interesting one.”


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