Rory Gallagher has warned his Derry players they must develop a new culture in order to be successful in the modern county game.
The Oak Leafers fell to their second McKenna Cup defeat of the season when Donegal won 1-10 to 0-08 at Celtic Park on Wednesday night with Gallagher notably frustrated by some of his side’s preparations.
“I wouldn’t have been happy with our preparation, there is no doubt about that, but it is not an excuse,” explained the former Donegal and Fermanagh manager. “I think Donegal are better at doing these things. They have a better culture within their set up, that’s something we need to learn from.
“Midweek, time, being here and being ready to play a game, you have to nail those things and we didn’t nail them as a group.
“I would have been very unhappy with it, yes, absolutely, and that’s something we have got to learn sharp. You have to give every game it’s respect. Donegal arrived here, as one, on a bus, well fed and well prepared with their brief team meeting and they move on.
“I don’t think we had that but, look, even at that, we weren’t good enough.”
After two tough McKenna games against Division one opposition, Gallagher’s focus can now shift to the league opener against Leitrim in Celtic Park on Saturday, January 25th when his squad will be bolstered considerably with an influx of Slaughtneil and Coleraine players, as well as the likes of Benny Heron, Niall Keenan and Niall Loughlin.
And despite the two reversals, Gallagher is happy with what his team have taken from the pre-season competition.
“Hand on heart, given the quantity of players I would consider from our first 21 or 22 that were missing, I would have thought it was a big ask to beat Donegal or Monaghan despite them missing players. You are seeing two teams that are very much road tested and dominant in Ulster, have been prominent in Division One and at the minute we are well back from them.
“I would say we have 13 or 14, maybe 15, of our first 22 or 23 players missing. I know Liam McGoldrick got in there but we have the four Slaughtneil boys, Liam and Niall Holly to come back, not sure about Ruairi Mooney, he has a wee injury; you have Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin, Benny Heron, Gareth McKinless, Alex and Jack Doherty, you have a nucleus of players to come back in.
“We won’t have all of them for the start of the league but you’d like to think we would have an awful lot of them and they will be a big lift to us.”
Describing the performance against Donegal as lethargic, Gallagher said it highlights the work they have to do before facing Leitrim.
“Listen, the McKenna Cup, I think we got our eyes opened. You could have played games where they papered over the cracks but the one thing you have to be is honest with yourself. You have to know where you are at. We know there is a long way to go and we felt the Leitrim game was going to a big game for us at the start of the year and that is our focus.”