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Derry surge continues

THE end of one era, the beginning of another, or something in between? John O'Mahony and Mayo had much to ponder as the team bus weaved its way through the congested streets of the Bogside away from Celtic Park on Saturday evening and back out west into championship anonymity.

Being the diplomat that he is, O'Mahony sought to soothe the more extreme analysis that this Mayo team as we know it had run its course. He spoke of meetings in a few weeks, of regeneration, of veterans playing their part in the future.

But the cold reality of a 10-point defeat for last year's All-Ireland finalists is that much change is necessary. O'Mahony knows it and so do the players who will rise or fall in the process.

Some of Mayo's most iconic figures of the last decade and more left their inter-county careers behind them on Saturday at a wet and miserable Celtic Park. James Nallen and Aidan Higgins never saw action while Kevin O'Neill, Ciaran McDonald or David Brady could do nothing to stem the tide of a powerful Derry surge that has lifted them into the last 12 with a stream of destruction in their wake.


First Armagh, now Mayo, a whole host of inter-county careers strewn behind them with a performance that few saw coming. Derry have breathed life into their season again with impressive energy and were the one team, more than Donegal, that losing provincial finalists should have been hoping to avoid when the drums rolled last night.

Paddy Bradley, their effervescent presence at full-forward, suggests they are now entitled to shoot for the stars after the last seven days that saw two of the mainstream championship contenders fall on their sword.

"Joe Kernan came into us last week and said if Armagh had beaten Derry they'd be thinking in terms of All-Ireland semi-finals and everyone would be thinking of them in those terms too. I took from what he said that we are capable of going out and beating anybody," said Bradley.

Bradley feels he's only finding his own sharpness again after a recent suspension but detected a "relaxed mood" at training during the week that augured well for Mayo's visit to one of the most foreboding venues on the circuit.

Their qualifier record stands up to scrutiny too, much more so beside a depressing Ulster championship audit over the last 10 years.

"I was looking at the stats which show that we have a 70 to 80 per cent success rate in qualifiers. We've reached two All-Ireland semi-finals by this route. It seems to suit us the very best. We've come into the last two games low-key and it has helped us. Having the favourites' tags in Ulster hasn't suited us."

They won here comfortably, outscoring their visitors by 2-5 to 0-1 in the closing 22 minutes to mask Mayo's effort to cling to their coat tails early on.

When Derry shot to a four-point lead in the opening 15 minutes Mayo couldn't lay a glove on them. There was magnificent defence from the rejuvenated Sean Martin Lockhart, Kevin McCloy and Michael McGoldrick, who made light work of Conor Mortimer's menacing presence.

All routes were closed to Mayo except one and when David Heaney's speculative drive goalwards hopped off Barry Gillis' chest, Barry Moran showed neat footwork for a big man to slide the rebound past the hapless Derry 'keeper.

Moran was again one of Mayo's more positive notes and finished the half with 1-2, even if McCloy's reputation as an uncompromising full-back wasn't dented.

But Mayo made too few inroads and as Bradley, Enda Muldoon, Conleth Gilligan and Fergal Doherty showed greater appetite and better handling of the wet conditions, the gulf was apparent almost everywhere in that first half, except on the scoreboard.

By the end of the half Mayo were flattered to be just 0-8 to 1-3 in arrears and a considerable push after the break had them level, 0-8 to 1-5 and looking good.

But they were caught by a rather freakish goal themselves on 48 minutes when Jim Conway's attempt to fist a point was so poorly struck it remained in play and hung perfectly for Colin Devlin to outjump a much bigger David Clarke and palm to an inviting net.

Andy Moran closed the gap but Mayo were on the brink and when the gaps opened they faced a deluge in the closing 10 minutes as Bradley and company turned on the style.

Enda Muldoon's 67th minute goal is another strong contender for goal of the year coming so soon after Eamonn O'Hara's bullet for Sligo last week. Muldoon chipped Clarke after a protracted build-up that involved up to eight intricate passes as Fergal Doherty delivered the final assist.

O'Mahony was at pains to play down the margin of defeat but in truth Derry were far off being as dominant as the scoreline suggests.

"I know what the headlines will be about the scoreline and the margin but from our point of view we'd be proud of the work we put in up to Derry's second goal," he said.

"It's very obvious a transitional period has started. It was always going to happen," he figured.

"How quick or slow that comes? I wouldn't want people making assessments on who should be or might be retiring. I would hope we would sit down in a few weeks' time and think of where we are going and I have asked every player to do that as well and make no hasty decisions.


"I think it's a great time of opportunity in Mayo football for players to come forth and come into the squad but that doesn't mean that I want everybody else to retire. Looking at some of the veterans out there today, they have played some massive games and they will have a big part to play going forward."

The last four years have been quite a cycle for Mayo. With time and space they can come back but in a much different guise. The real challenge for O'Mahony is only beginning now.

SCORERS - Derry: P Bradley 0-5 (2f), E Muldoon, C Devlin 1-1 each, C Gilligan 0-3 (2f), J Conway, B McGoldrick, R Wilkinson all 0-1 each. Mayo: B Moran 1-2, C Mortimer (f), P Hanley, A Moran, A Kilcoyne all 0-1 each.

DERRY - B Gillis 5; S M Lockhart 8, K McCloy 7, M McGoldrick 8; L Himphey 6, G O'Kane 7, F McEldowney 7; F Doherty 8, J Conway 6; B McGoldrick 5, P Murphy 6, E Muldoon 8; C Devlin 7, P Bradley 8, C Gilligan 6. Subs: M Lynch 7 for B McGoldrick (29), R Wilkinson 6 for Murphy (56), Patsy Bradley 5 for Conway (59), P O'Hea for Hinphey (68), G Donaghy for Gilligan (70).

MAYO - D Clarke 5; T Cunniffe 6, L O'Malley 6, T Howley 8; D Heaney 7, D Kilcullen 6, T Mortimer 7; P Harte 5, D Brady 5; B J Padden 4, P Hanley 6, A Dillon 5; C Mortimer 4, B Moran 7, A Moran 6. Subs: A Kilcoyne 6 for Dillon (ht), A Campbell 4 for Kilcoyne (43), K O'Neill 5 for Padden (51), C McDonald 5 for Campbell (59), P Gardiner for Cunniffe (60), R McGarrity for Brady (62 bld).

REF - D Coldrick (Meath)

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