Conleith Gilligan says that there is every reason to be positive that Derry could go on a run in this year’s qualifiers.
The Oak Leafers may have suffered yet another defeat to Tyrone (1-19 to 1-13) in the championship, yet Gilligan thinks that Derry’s style of play, and the squad make for a positive analysis.
“I travelled to Omagh and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought that they would struggle to score and that they may be defensive.
“But Tyrone were fancied so heavily that everybody left Omagh satisfied with how Derry had performed.
“Derry weren’t as defensive as we had thought that they might be, and they played well.”
For much of the game, Derry played very well. While Tyrone seemed in control for long stages, Derry had a good spell in the second half which saw them take the lead. However, Tyrone quickly snuffed out any hope of a surprise win, and they cantered to a six-point victory.
Gilligan said that one of the aspects which was worth noting whas how well the defence played.
“Having seen very little of them during the league I was pleased to see that they have tightened up at the back. Tyrone didn’t look like they were going to open them up for goals. Derry had been conceding two goals a game.
“Karl McKaigue looked to be back to the player that he had been in the past. Derry have not had that quality of a man marker in a while. He and Paul McNeill have been able to do that and that’s a good thing.”
Gilligan also pointed out that if Emmett Bradley can impose himself on the game then it will be a big positive for the Oak Leafers.
“Emmett gave a bit more balance to the team. If he can get into the game then Ciaran McFaul will be able to replicate their league form.”
Gilligan also felt that there is great potential in the younger players on the team. Swatragh’s Sean Quinn was pulled and dragged in the game, but will have learnt from that experience. Shane McGuigan’s stock continued to rise.
“Sean Quinn was making his debut, he was inbetween players at times and didn’t know what to do. I would be keen to see him get a bit more time as he has great potential.
“Shane kicked some great scores and got a couple of frees. You have to take those opportunities when you can.
“I would like to see them get a few more attacking backs into play, Jason Rocks or Patrick Coney. That is where Derry should be getting scores from.”
This weekend, Derry are due to play Wexford, a team that they beat in Bellaghy during the league campaign. The bookies fancy Derry to win again, but Gilligan says that caution should be taken about any strong predictions.
“Derry are away this weekend, and away teams in the first round of the qualifiers have a checkered history. Wexford are one of the teams in the draw that we would have been edging for. I think that Derry will have too much for them.
“Chrissy McKaigue playing as a sweeper didn’t seem to work as Tyrone were able to kick balls over him to McShane. I don’t think that Wexford will be able to do that.”