Rory Gallagher felt there was a timidness to his Derry side as they bowed out of the All-Ireland race over the weekend with a whimper in the end.
The Fermanagh man believes his Ulster champions didn’t rip into Galway the way they are capable of.
Derry had scored 10 goals in four games coming in, but never threatened a major until Ethan Doherty’s stoppage-time burst led to Lachlan Murray hitting the net.
It only served to highlight the directness Derry lacked throughout the game in their attacking play. Gallagher felt Derry “didn’t play anyway close” to the level they can with the ball.
“We just didn’t really rip into them the way we wanted to,” said Gallagher.
“The first three points were obviously good but we should have ripped into them far more. That’s disappointing because I felt it took them a while to get to grips with us defensively — even though they were getting bodies behind the ball.
“Penning them in, in the sense of really going at them and maybe there was a bit of timidness is us. Sometimes that happens.
“Galway are more seasoned than us, albeit there were a lot of young players as well. I thought they were coached very well. We’ll reflect and we’ll not be happy with how we went at them.”
Gallagher added: “If you take our 11 players from the half-back line up, who really have been a force for us the way they drive, create overlaps and get in behind for extra men, very little of that was seen.
“Whether it was the stage or a wee bit of Galway. We knew they were going to set up the way they have been consistently set up.
“Maybe not with everybody defending the way they did, but they don’t mark certain players and when you’re not being marked you’ve got to hurt them. But you don’t hurt them on your own. You hurt them in twos and threes and fours and we didn’t do that.”
Gallagher added: "It’s been a phenomenal experience for them. I’ve loved every minute of it, (until) the way they wound down with 15 minutes to go when they were beaten - absolutely not. There’s devastation there.
“We believed we were good enough to beat Galway and we believed with the way we set out to play early on we should have been in a position to win the game in the last 10 minutes.
“Conor McCluskey was excellent on Shane Walsh who’s a brilliant player.
“Chrissy (McKaigue) done unbelievably on (Robert) Finnerty but ultimately Comer came up with the scores and he was brilliant, and Walsh kicked the frees.
“There’s no nice way to finish. I don’t want to finish. You have two choices. You either give up or you go at it again and we intend to go at it again.
“It’s been an unbelievable year. It’s very disappointing we didn’t get to an All-Ireland final.
“We don’t look at it like where we’ve come from or anything like that. We have an awful lot of quality.
“We don’t have an awful lot of experience playing at county level at Croke Park on days like this, but there’s a lot of learning to do.”
Pádraic Joyce, meanwhile, has vowed that Galway will deliver one hell of a performance in the All-Ireland Final.
The man who scored 10 points in the 2001 decider triumph over Meath — nine of them in the second half — knows a thing or two about delivering on the big day.
No Galway team since 1983 has made an All-Ireland final without Joyce’s involvement. But there were plenty of whispers over the past three Covid-hit years about the Tribe legend’s no-nonsense proclamation on his anointing as Kevin Walsh’s replacement back in late 2019.
There was no skirting around Joyce’s aim as he declared anything less than an All-Ireland title in his tenure would be a failure. Talk about laying down the gauntlet.
Successive Connacht final defeats to Mayo in straight knock-out Championships were avenged this year, as Galway inched their way through to a first All-Ireland final since 2001.
The talk of not being able to win a Championship game at Croke Park — it didn’t happen between 2001 and the 2018 Super 8s triumph over Kerry — is starting to abate too.
That same directness and unequivocal belief that was there on Joyce’s unveiling was there again after the Derry win: “We are going to give one helluva performance here in two weeks’ time,” he vowed.
“Semi-finals are for winning. It mightn’t be pretty at times.
“I said it from day one when I got the job, it is about winning the All-Ireland. It has taken us three years to get here. We’re here now so we are definitely going to make the most of it.”
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