Rory Gallagher needs time to inspire Derry, says McKaigue
New Derry manager Rory Gallagher is poised to add a more definitive aspect to his inaugural squad when he takes in this weekend's county senior football Championship quarter-finals.
In what is regarded as a favourable bounce of the ball for former Donegal and Fermanagh boss Gallagher, the pairings could scarcely be more intriguing.
With Swatragh and Banagher due to lock horns tomorrow evening at Owenbeg (6.30pm), this will set the tone for what promises to be an action-packed weekend.
It's the meeting of Slaughtneil and Ballinderry on Sunday at Glen (1.30pm), though, that will perhaps do most to whet the appetite of fans, while the subsequent clashes at Owenbeg of O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt and Ballinascreen (4pm) and Glen and Lavey (5.30pm) are also calculated to set the pulses racing.
With reigning champions Eoghan Rua, Coleraine having been despatched from the Championship by O'Donovan Rossa, the title is very much in the melting pot, although Slaughtneil appear to have recaptured the hunger that they might have been lacking last year after their uninterrupted dominance spanning 2014-2017 inclusive.
In tandem with his key backroom personnel Ciaran Meenagh and Enda Muldoon, Gallagher has already conducted an extensive trawl of Oak Leaf talent and is understood to be drawing up a squad shortlist while at the same time keeping an open mind on the possibility of discovering fresh talent between now and the end of the Championship.
While Derry gained promotion from Division Four earlier this year, their subsequent eclipse by Tyrone in the Ulster Championship and rather tame exit from the All-Ireland qualifiers at the hands of a modest Laois outfit triggered gloom and despondency within the county.
The departure of manager Damian McErlain paved the way for Gallagher to undertake what is his third inter-county role and now there is a strong body of opinion within the county which favours ensuring that the 2010 St Gall's All-Ireland Club-winning player should be afforded maximum co-operation in his bid to restore Derry's fortunes.
Long-serving Slaughtneil and Oak Leaf player Chrissy McKaigue perhaps best encapsulated this when he said: "From a playing perspective, all we can do is focus on the Club Championship, and I am only concerned with our meeting with Ballinderry, who had a huge win in their last outing against Dungiven.
"There has been a lot of debate and a bit of controversy lately, but now the focus must be on the future. We have a new management team in charge and, as players, all we can do is try to impress them and see where that takes us.
"Rory and his team deserve a chance like every other Derry management team that has gone before them. The quarter-finals of the Championship give them the opportunity to have an in-depth look at players and I am sure they will be doing their homework. It's up to us as players to put our best foot forward."
Having already attended several Club Championship matches, Gallagher has acquainted himself with much of Derry's current playing resources.
After this weekend it seems certain that he will have an even more intricate knowledge of the depth of talent at his disposal as he lays the preparations for what he and his backroom team hope will prove a fruitful 2020.
Meanwhile, Derry are on the look-out for a new ladies' football manager now that Paul Crozier has stepped down from his role.
In a parting shot, Crozier is urging that the ladies' team be afforded a greater level of equality.
"I know there is much work to be done within the county and the ladies will not rest until they get the message across to Derry GAA as a whole that they have to be treated with respect and get the same treatment as the men," insisted Crozier, who took up the reins three years ago when Derry's fortunes were at a low ebb.
But Crozier's enthusiasm and commitment proved infectious and Derry won an Ulster title last year.
Now the challenge for his successor will be to take the Oak Leaf side to the next level.
"Some positive steps have been taken by the county board but I feel much more has to be done. I feel that going forward we need to make sure we get the right coaches involved with all our ladies' teams at every level," asserted Crozier.
"We need to get as many people as possible involved in fund-raising to give these coaches every opportunity financially to be on a par with other county teams."