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Rory is playing it cool as Oak Leafers await

By Declan Bogue

The most obvious question for Donegal manager Rory Gallagher to answer after his side's victory over Armagh yesterday was what prompted the early aerial bombardment?

"We felt that last time we didn't have enough variety to our game. Here, with the weather conditions, we thought we might get a bit of joy," he answered. "We have good ball winners which obviously helps as well."

They have been working at other aspects too.

In the first half, they did not concede a single score-able free, a significant reversal from the Tyrone game. Right now, they appear to be operating on another level than the rest.

So just where exactly did Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher's separate influences begin and end on this group? Gallagher may not be as cerebral as McGuinness and is more inclined to pour cold water over the post-match praise.

Asked if this sent out a statement to the rest of the country, he answered: "It was a good first half, there's no doubt about that but the unfortunate thing about the performance is that it doesn't even get us into a final.

"We have beaten Tyrone and Armagh but we have Derry next, it's hard to get a breather."

Why would you want a break when your team is in this form anyway? Especially when you get to manage a genius like Michael Murphy.

"(Managing him) is not difficult, that's for sure," said Gallagher. "Michael's a great leader for the county and for the boys and he sets the tone every night at training."

On his frees - each one more impressive than the last - he explained: "He's a huge man and he has a great distance on him but very few are born with that technique. He works on it night after night.

"Michael, Colm (McFadden), Patrick (McBrearty), Odhrán (MacNiallais), those lads are always out practising."

It's their intelligence on the ball that sets them apart, whether natural or taught, and Gallagher wasn't about to make a grab for any additional credit.

"I think everybody throughout the country would recognise that Donegal have intelligent players," said Gallagher.

"Maybe it's because they play in such windy conditions, giving away the ball is cruel. But you have to mix it as well at times.

"They are natural born footballers, the clubs do a lot of work with them and then they come into us and we top it off."

Now they are in for another match against Derry, a side they have beaten in the 2011 Ulster final and the quarter-finals of 2012 and 2014.

"It's familiar territory for both teams," noted Gallagher. "Brian McIver seems to have put his own stamp on it, and I saw him on the TV where he said they would have a clear run at it for five weeks.

"Things are being done differently in Derry and I was impressed with their first-half display (against Down).

"To be honest with you, I haven't thought about them, we will have to get our head around them in the week ahead."

Looking ahead to the next few days, he continued: "We will do a bit of recovery this evening, tomorrow, and Tuesday will be a light enough session.

"It is a quick-enough turnaround.

"The lads look after themselves. The good thing is that there is no club games and the boys are solely with us now and we have full focus."

And pints tonight, what with the sunny weather and all that?

"I don't know, we will see what the boys say inside. But I would doubt it," he concluded.

So would we.

Belfast Telegraph


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