Neil Gallagher said Donegal were “relieved” to have beaten Derry after an Ulster SFC semi-final that he said was “in the balance the whole way through.”

Marty O’Reilly’s 45th-minute goal proved highly significant as Rory Gallagher’s side advanced to their fifth successive Ulster final by beating an impressive Derry side 1-09 to 0-10.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport after the game, Gallagher, who was at the heart of a lot of Donegal’s positive play, said there was a lot to improve on his county’s showing.

“A lot of kind of sloppy passes that went astray,” Gallagher said of Donegal’s performance. “And a couple of bad shots.

“We’d a lot of wides and stuff like that. In the end, the goal was a big difference, I suppose.”

Gallagher said Donegal had failed to make good decisions in the face of a stifling Saturday evening and Derry’s relentless determination.

“It was a wild close evening, and Derry put us under intense pressure,” he said. “It was a wild intense game, and when you’re under that kind of pressure, you have to try and rely on making good decisions, but that doesn’t always happen like that, you know.

“[We’re] just relieved to get through by two points, because it was just in the balance the whole way through.”

He praised Derry’s tactics, suggesting that they had forced Donegal to take pot-shots from far out, which contributed to a large number of wides.

“They were able to get us on the counter-attack then, too, Mark Lynch and them boys popping over scores. As I suppose, I suppose Martin O’Reilly’s goal was very crucial, you know, plus the fact of us keeping out a goal.”

He said the players had not bought into any hype that might have followed Donegal after their comprehensive win over Armagh, but he conceded “there’s not really you can do about” people writing pieces in newspapers, and that he was aware that people had predicted that Donegal were going to beat Derry comfortably.

“You’ll never get that against Derry,” he said.

Next up for Donegal is a fifth successive Ulster final, and third on the trot against Monaghan, on 19 July.

“That’s going to be another tight battle,” Gallagher predicted of the final. 

For more listen to Saturday Sport, from 2.45pm every Saturday on Radio 1