Bradley ends resistance to keep Derry on track
DERRY remain in pole position to join Westmeath in Division 1 next season following a gutsy and composed second-half display against 14-man Louth in Drogheda.
Having turned around at the break with a five-point advantage – 1-9 to 1-4 – Brian McIver's side appeared to have left themselves with a lot to do to see off Aidan O'Rourke's Louth, who played with a gale-force breeze at their backs in the second period.
However, early second-half points from Enda Lynn and Gerard O'Kane sent the Oak Leaf men seven points clear and they were still protecting a six-point cushion by the time Mark Brennan received a straight red card from referee Martin Higgins in the 50th minute.
Even with 14 men, Louth rallied and six points without reply drew them level, 1-12 apiece. However, that was the home side's last score.
Eoin Bradley ended an 18-minute scoreless streak with a brace of frees and then Benny Heron fired home from close range after a Daniel Heavron delivery left him one-on-one with Neil Gallagher.
Louth had got off to a dream start when Shane Lennon rifled a penalty high to Eoin McNicholl's net in the first minute.
It was soon cancelled out by another penalty at the other end, dispatched by James Kielt, but Derry struggled to exert their authority and Louth would have been happy to adjourn just five points down.
Derry host already promoted Westmeath in a fortnight in Celtic Park, where a draw would be enough to secure promotion.
Louth, on the other hand, need a win or a draw at home to relegated Longford to hold onto their Division 2 status.
Man of the match: G O'Kane (Derry)
SCORERS – Derry: J Kielt 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3fs), E Bradley 0-4 (4fs), L Kennedy 0-3 (1f), B Heron 1-0, G O'Kane, E Lynn 0-2 each. Louth: S Lennon 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-4fs), B White 0-2 (1f), D Crilly, C Byrne, K Rogers (f), D Clarke, C Rafferty 0-1 each.
DERRY – E McNicholl 7; A McAlynn 7, C McKaigue 7, C McWilliams 7; C Kielt 7, G O'Kane 8, SL McGoldrick 7; P Bradley 8, PJ McCloskey 7; M Bateson 6, J Kielt 8, E Lynn 7; D Heavron 7, L Kennedy 7, R Wilkinson 7. Subs: E Bradley 8 for M Bateson (20), B Heron for L Kennedy (61).
LOUTH – N Gallagher 7; P Rath 7, D Finnegan 7, G Hoey 6; J O'Brien 6, D Crilly 7, A Reid 8; R Carroll 6, B Donnelly 7; A McDonnell 7, M Brennan 5, B White 7; C Byrne 7, S Lennon 7, K Rogers 6. Subs: D Maguire 6 for G Hoey (h-t), C Rafferty 6 for R Carroll (49), J McEneaney for C Byrne (65).
REF – M Higgins (Fermanagh).