Derry manager Rory Gallagher pictured after Sunday's defeat in Ballybofey. (Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)
Rory Gallagher insists his side are the 'real deal' and feels Derry will learn from their defeat in Sunday's championship cauldron.
The Derry boss was 'bitterly' disappointed to have been caught with the late sucker punch in a game he felt Derry were capable of winning, a fixture he termed as a 'big ask'.
“We felt we were capable of being an Ulster heavyweight, but we came out on the wrong side of it,” Gallagher stated after the game.
He wasn't drawn on any questioning on not being awarded a sixth minute penalty when Shane McGuigan appeared to be fouled by Stephen McMenamin.
“It could've been...it was very hard for me to say,” he admitted. “I referee training games, sometimes they bounce with you and sometimes they don't bounce with you.
“David (Coldrick) is a top class referee and his officials all are. We are disappointed we didn't finish more chances than a couple of soft frees. We came out on the wrong side of a decision and there is nothing we can do now.
Gallagher said he 'hoped' the last play of the game, that could've found an injury time equaliser, had played a little longer.
“We certainly couldn't get Shane or Ciaran (on the ball for a shot). Michael (Murphy) came on an kicked a couple of frees,” he added, mentioning how Niall O'Donnell, Michael Langan and Paul Brennan were able to land kicks from distance for Donegal.
“We kicked some savage points as well, that's the fine margins,” Gallagher said of his own team's performance.
“You have to give Donegal massive credit. They never put their heads down, they are experienced. When we went 0-6 to 0-2 up they came back, when we went 0-12 to 0-8 up they came back. When we equalised at 0-15 each, they dug it out. That's when you are short of their overall package and that's what we have to strive to get to.”
In disappointment, the Derry manager took time to reflect on his team's season and how much they can learn from Sunday's game in the white heat of championship action.
“It is very hard to rock up and be a team,” he said, pointing to Donegal's rise from winning the 2007 NFL title and getting to the 2010 All-Ireland U21 final.
“We (Derry) are not coming from that stronghold. They (Donegal) got an All-Ireland U21 final in 2010 and went on in 2011 with a serious group of players. We are coming from further back than that.
“You want to be playing against these teams, that's the best to learn and it is no disrespect to the lower divisions, but it is the Donegals, the Tyrones, the Monaghans and the Armaghs...you have to learn from them
“They learn how to win together and lose together. They don't get too up or they don't get too down.”
Will Derry get there?
“I think we were there today,” Gallagher replied. “Bar Dublin and Kerry, to a lesser extent, every other team might win 50 percent of their games against the top teams. We've to get playing the top teams, get a higher success rate and start winning them. I certainly feel we are the real deal.”
The Derry boss, in an interview with the County Derry Post ahead of Sunday, felt his management were confident in how they prepared the team to a level to face a Division One team like Donegal, on the back of playing in the third tier.
“I was happy with the preparation,” he said after Sunday's defeat.
"I don't get everything right but I know good footballers. Anybody who goes to Derry club matches knows good footballers . It was a matter of us gelling.”
As Gallagher answered questions from the media, the Donegal players not getting game time were taking part in a training session on the pitch. Gallagher used the example of All-Ireland winning defender Paddy McGrath.
“I know them inside out,” Gallagher said. “He won't sulk, he will get on with it and that's what we need to do.
"We need to learn an awful lot. I would be passing on some of the experience I have from Donegal , the way they always put the team first. Even today, when it wasn't going their way, they stuck at it and dug it out.”
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