Derry manager Rory Gallagher and selector Enda Muldoon. (Pic: Fintan McTiernan)
Derry senior footballers need to take full advantage of the current lock-down to bridge the gap to Ulster's big guns.
That's the thoughts of manager Rory Gallagher who insists his young squad's conditioning is 'light years' behind Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal.
Speaking to the County Derry Post, Gallagher also feels that counties don't need the four week lead-in time for a return to action, as suggested by the GPA.
On Friday, the GAA passed a motion at their Special Congress allowing them control over any changes to fixtures if or when any government advice permits a return to action.
“It is completely out of our hands,” Gallagher stated, while pointing that all teams are in the same boat.
Derry's players have been working away on programmes designed by Strength and Conditioning coach Ollie Cummings. With the age profile of the squad, Gallagher outlines the positives of the difficult situation.
“We have a lot of players who need to put on size and strength. To put a positive on it, for 14 or 15 of our squad, all under 22 or 23, we think it is a good opportunity to focus on the gym work.
“A lot of them have good setups at home and we got equipment out to them from Owenbeg early on. I think we can use this to our advantage for the short and the long-term.”
Gallagher commented on how much work players like Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Jamie Brennan – now in their sixth year on the Donegal senior squad - had to endure since he called them up from the U21 ranks.
“The (Derry) physique is light years behind Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal who have been the benchmark in Ulster,” Gallagher said.
“When you compare our corner backs to an Eoghan Bán or a Paudie Hampsey. We have an opportunity for Shea Downey, Conor McCluskey and those type of players to hone in on it. You have Jack and Alex Doherty, the McWilliams (Oisin and Lorcan). Even players, who haven't had any game time, they have a huge opportunity to bulk up.”
In his experience, Gallagher stressed that players don't become inter-county senior players overnight and there needs to be a realisation of standards. He points to the Donegal players biding their time on the bench.
“Every night at training you could see their desire to push on, that's what we are trying to do with a lot of the players to get to a level Derry have not been at in a long time.”
Another advantage Gallagher is taking out of the break, is those players coming back from injury and the Slaughtneil contingent getting a chance to have a proper break.
“They need a complete unwind from everything,” he said. “Chrissy (McKaigue) played in the club semi-final (against Ballyhale) with a niggling hamstring, he has a complete chance now to get his body ready and fresh.”
With promotion or relegation unlikely, if the league ever resumes, the championship clash with Armagh is getting a 'fair bit' of Gallagher's attention. When it will be played, that's very much up in the air.
“I would disagree with the GPA, in that you need a four week lead-in. Whatever we are given we will take.
We are not a professional body and it is same for everyone, so there is no advantage for anybody.
“The number one priority for everyone, is the health and safety of everybody in the country. If we get the opportunity to play it, we'll grab it. Whether it be behind closed doors, or not,
“We have got to make the most of a really difficult situation. I would love to see, eight, ten or twelve thousand people at Celtic Park. There would be a great atmosphere on championship day. If it's not, we'll have to suck it up and live with it for one year.”
- GAA set to postpone provincial championships. Click here...
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