Derry manager Rory Gallagher and selector Enda Muldoon. (Pic: Fintan McTiernan)
Derry senior manager Rory Gallagher has challenged attacking duo Shane McGuigan and Niall Loughlin ahead of the county season, which he describes as being 'a number of notches' above the club game.
McGuigan (4-47) and Loughlin (4-27) were both the winning captain and top scorers as Slaughtneil and Greenlough annexed the senior and intermediate titles.
Next month's home clash with Armagh is set to be a first championship outing for Loughlin since Derry's extra-time qualifier defeat to Mayo in 2017, Damian Barton's last game in charge.
The Greenlough man spent the interim in Australia and has been a welcome addition to Derry's attacking options.
“I am delighted to see him and Shane (McGuigan),” said Gallagher of a potential attacking axis.
“It's time for the two boys to deliver on the county stage,” he added. “Club football is brilliant, but it goes up another number of notches...a massive number of notches. That's the reality of it, you are marking a better calibre of player, you get less time and less space and the boys have got to go out and show it now.
“I am looking forward to (seeing) them over the next number of weeks and months and into next season, really going at it.”
Gallagher was co-commentator on Derry GAA's live stream for Magherafelt's win over Lavey and was a regular attender at games across the championship.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Slaughtneil v Maghera (Glen) game. For 42 or 43 minutes, it was as good a club game as I would have ever been at. I thought it was pulsating at times,” he said.
“I thought Slaughtneil's display against Ballinderry, they outclassed Ballinderry with their workrate and the way they play for each other was phenomenal as well.”
During lockdown and when asked about the possibility of calling people into the county squad based on club performances, Gallagher stressed the need for continuity. He knew the players he wanted.
“You meet people at the games and they are asking you about new blood. I think everybody that watches regularly, knows the players that are capable of playing county football. We want to make sure they are fit and are consistently in the panel.
“There is a lot of talent in Derry, but what I enjoy is watching county players playing really well. Some are marking each other and can cancel each other out.”
“JD (Jack Doherty) and Shea Downey are young lads who missed periods of it with knocks. We lost Karl (McKaigue), but on the back of that we got Jason (Rocks) and Enda Lynn back.”
“When he (Lynn) was needed in the final (Greenlough win over Steelstown) he really stood up and was counted, like Niall Loughlin's frees and score-taking, there were a lot of good positive signs for the county team.”
Gallagher also called in U20 players Ethan Doherty and Paul Cassidy, while there is a return for Paul McNeill after missing the early part of the season with the injury that kept him on the sidelines.
Since lockdown, Thomas Mallon has switched from playing to the role of goalkeeper coach, with Glen's Connlan Bradley taking his place in the squad.
Niall Keenan, Liam McGoldrick, Conor McAtamney and Ryan Bell are no longer part of the panel.
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