Red-hot Bell strikes right note to fire Oak Leafers into decider
Derry 1-17 Cavan 1-10
The stats from this Dr McKenna Cup semi-final suggest that Damian Barton’s intention to put Derry on the front foot this year may have some substance.
Eight different players scored from play in the Athletic Grounds, 14 of their 17 points total came from play with Ryan Bell kicking 1-5, all of his points coming from long-range. Barton’s new-look side moved the ball with pace, getting a lot of bodies forward in support of some slick attacking moves.
“Statistically Derry have been very good defensively in the last few years, but the problem is you can’t win games unless you score and we have to address that,” said Barton.
“It took us a wee while to get going but the penalty and point straight after it were equally as important. We mixed our game up well so there are many positives.”
Bell’s penalty in the 21st minute was a decisive score, with the Oak Leafers kicking 1-4 from play in a six-minute spell to seize control.
Cavan had the wind in the first half but that Derry scoring blitz left them chasing the game and they trailed 1-10 to 0-6 at the break.
Killian Clarke’s tidy finish from a well-worked move in the 53rd minute was the high point in their much-improved second half, while Eugene Keating and Seanie Johnston kicked their first scores since their return to Breffni blue.
But Derry were in no mood to surrender such a comfortable lead and ran out deserving winners.
The sides were level four times in a tight first quarter, with Gearoid McKiernan’s left-footed wonder point from near the touchline putting Cavan ahead 0-4 to 0-3 after 15 minutes. From there, Derry completely took over and outscored Terry Hyland’s side by 1-7 to 0-2 in the 20 minutes before half-time, Bell hitting 1-4.
Conor Moynagh, Ciaran Brady and Gearoid McKiernan battled hard for Cavan, but Derry had too much for them all over the field.
All but three of Derry’s total of 17 points came from play.
“Our ball-handling and decision-making in the first half was very poor,” said the Cavan manager.
“We left ourselves too much to do but were a lot happier with our second half and we’ve given run-outs to about 36, 37 players in the last few weeks which is a big plus.”