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Just desserts in Derry

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FLECKS of comfort for Jim Gavin on an otherwise dreary afternoon in Derry.

Alan Brogan kicking six points, five from play, in the most compelling evidence thus far that he can still source the genius which once made him Footballer of the Year.

Paddy Andrews torturing poor Derry corner-back Mark Craig, who had the most colourful afternoon of anyone in Celtic Park, seeing cards coloured yellow, black and then red, in that order.

Otherwise, the day was a bit of a pudding for the Dubs, losing as they did by 1-16 to 0-13 to a Derry team with a historical tendency for winning at home.

"Disappointing loss," was Gavin's reaction. "But I think we'll learn a good bit from today. It's a great experience for the players to come up to Derry this morning. And to play against a very good team and to experience that sort of atmosphere. We're obviously disappointed with the loss, but it was a great game to be involved in."

"Absolutely tremendous," reflected Derry boss, Brian McIver, as his players were feted on their way to the dressing-rooms for well over half an hour past the final whistle.

"We settled into the game very well today, started very well and I thought, over the course of the game, deservedly won it."

That they did.

And from the point of Mark Lynch's goal, three minutes before half time, Dublin struggling to inch back within swinging distance of Derry.

Lynch – the Derry captain – had a sort of day of days, scoring 1-8 (0-4f), included within which were a couple of belters in the second half.

Jonny Cooper, Darren Daly and, finally, Kevin Nolan all had cracks at curbing Lynch's enthusiasm, but none could lay a firm enough glove on the Derry centre-forward to prevent him wreaking high havoc.

VARIED

For Dublin, mitigation was many and varied.

Gavin started just six players from last year's All-Ireland final XV.

James McCarthy pulled out yesterday morning with illness and Kevin McManamon, their best player a week ago against Kildare, was withdrawn from the starting line-up prior to throw-in.

Throw in the prolonged absences of Paul Flynn, Rory O'Carroll and Bernard Brogan, not to mention Gavin's decision to rest all seven of his U21s.

"We created four goal chances throughout the game and didn't take any if them," Gavin pointed out by way of specific identification of how his team had underperformed. "They created one in the first half and took theirs and that gave them a little bit of breathing space at half-time."

True, Dublin did create some decent goal chances in the second half. But they fell to Darren Daly (two), Tomás Brady and Davy Byrne – not, presumably, names that feature highly on Gavin's rankings for goal takers.

Yet at one point in the second half, after a spell in which Dublin kicked three points on the spin (two from Alan Brogan and another from Philly McMahon, set up by Brogan), they stood just a goal shy of Derry and grasped, albeit fleetingly, the game's momentum as their own. Then, after Craig had fouled Andrews for yet another foul and, thus, sent off for a black card, having been booked just three minutes later, referee Fergal Kelly's attention was drawn to an incident in the preamble to the play.

Lynch, meanwhile, was lying prone on the ground and, when Kelly returned to the scene of the crime, McMahon was sent off on a straight red card.

Otherwise, it looked as though Dublin – already in the ascendency at that stage – would catch and possibly overtake their hosts, given the numerical advantage that might have been.

As it was, Derry defended in numbers and counter-attacked efficiently and, by the final whistle, were moving further and further into the distance.

Minor scraps of gratification for Gavin came from another ball-winning masterclass from Eoghan O'Gara, even if it wasn't always used perfectly thereafter, and a decent showing from his two first choice midfielders, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O'Sullivan.

But the fact that he was compelled to make three substitutions before half-time, replacing Seán George, Bryan Cullen and Paul Hudson, tells its own story.

"No manager wants to go out and suffer a loss, but I've always said the team can't be stagnant from last year," Gavin said afterwards. "We need to grow and new players need to seize opportunities. One or two took it today and others, it didn't work out for them. But it's part of the process."


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