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Gallagher to run his eye over Derry's top talent

 

Big job: Rory Gallagher is tasked with revitalising Derry
Big job: Rory Gallagher is tasked with revitalising Derry
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The process which culminated in his appointment as the new Derry football boss may have been protracted, but that will not deter Rory Gallagher from getting down to business this weekend.

In a sense, his appointment could be said to be wholly opportune. The opening series of games in the Derry senior football championship are to be staged over the course of tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday and this will give Gallagher the chance to run his eye over a generous tranche of the talent that may be at his disposal.

Gallagher's attributes will now face the acid test in a county that has been starved of success for far too long.

Derry have been consigned to the role of mere spectators as teams such as Tyrone, Monaghan, Donegal and Armagh have held sway at different periods in the province since the Oak Leaf county last won the Ulster title in 1998.

The Oak Leaf county achieved promotion from Division Four of the Allianz League under Gallagher's predecessor Damian McErlain and there will now be a considerable emphasis on reaching Division Two in the 2020 Allianz League.

But it's in a Championship context that Derry face a fraught wait to see if meaningful progress can be made.

With proposals for a tiered All-Ireland Championship due to go before a Special Congress later this year, Derry will be under pressure to reach what would only be their third Ulster final in 20 years if they are to avoid the drop into the proposed 'B' Championship.

This being the case, it is understandable that Gallagher is losing no time in facing up to what is his latest sporting challenge.

Tomorrow, Enda Lynn, the man who has skippered Derry of late, is expected to be a central figure in the St Oliver Plunkett's, Greenlough side that will meet Lavey in the opening championship encounter at Owenbeg (8.30pm).

Then on Saturday the county's flagship competition will step up a gear when Banagher take on Bellaghy at Owenbeg (6.30pm) with O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt and Coleraine Eoghan Rua also crossing swords as part of an attractive double bill (8.00pm).

On Sunday, Glenullin and Swatragh will meet at Bellaghy (1.30pm) while there will be a further double bill at Owenbeg with Kilrea taking on Ballinascreen (6.00pm) and Glen meeting The Loup (7.30pm).

When Derry rather surprisingly bowed out of the All-Ireland qualifiers against Laois on their home ground in June, their team included several experienced players on whom Gallagher may be prepared to call again.

Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Chrissy McKaigue, Niall Keenan, Conor McAtamney, Ciaran McFaul, Emmet Bradley, Padraig Cassidy and Shane McGuigan are among those who may be in the frame again should they make themselves available to the new boss.

There is a feeling of frustration within the county that, while it is felt there is a raft of talent there, achieving consistency in terms of performances and results has been a problem for some time.

Indeed, Derry looked as if they were about to claim a significant scalp when they led Tyrone approaching the closing stages of the opening Ulster Championship tie of this season only to fall away in the final minutes and succumb to a rather harsh six-point defeat.

It was that setback more than anything that not only contributed to the county's brief tenure in the Ulster Championship but their short-lived involvement in the All-Ireland qualifiers, a competition in which they have also struggled for the most part.

New boss Gallagher may have a big task on his hands but he is not allowing the grass to grow under his feet in getting down to business.

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