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Rejuvenated Gilligan rips Lilies apart

John Brennan called it a "six-pointer", even though there are only two points for a win, but you knew what he meant.

Derry have sprung out of the traps under Brennan this season, reaching the McKenna Cup final and securing two league wins. Such is the competitiveness of Division 2 that the margins between promotion and relegation are very fine.

To make the journey down to Newbridge and defeat a Kildare team that as O'Byrne Cup victors and winners of their own opening league tie in Antrim, have also been going well, was huge.

"We have six lads out there in their first year of senior inter-county football, and with the experienced players, they're gelling well," Brennan said. "We've hit the ground running because there's great enthusiasm.

"There are so many good teams in Division 2, that wasn't a two-pointer or even a four-pointer, that today was almost a six-pointer."

Conleth Gilligan showed Derry fans what they've been missing by turning in a brilliant performance. He contributed seven points, with three coming from play and though his individual feat was matched by John Doyle at the other end, he had more support to ensure that his side would take the spoils.

The lively attacker has not appeared at inter-county level for a couple of seasons, but he clearly retains the appetite to perform for Derry and for Brennan, who knows him well.

"Conleth hasn't been there for a few years but I always had time for him as a footballer" said Brennan. "Everybody knows the heartbreak he has caused me (at Lavey) over the years in club football. At times, Paddy Bradley was being double-marked today so that gave another person some space."


Kildare had the upper hand for the opening 25 minutes or so thanks to the dominance of their midfield, with Hugh Lynch in particular proving effective.

Doyle converted two frees to go with Padraig O'Neill's opener to give his side a three-point advantage and it was the 20th minute before Derry could respond courtesy of a Bradley free.

Fionn Dowling shot a sensational point two minutes later from a tight angle but with Derry picking up more of the breaks around the middle, the outstanding Gilligan began to prosper.

The Ballinderry man converted a free and a '45' into the wind before also adding a wonderful point, and with Bradley contributing another score from play, they led at the break by 0-7 to 0-6.

Though Kildare resumed in decent fashion -- Doyle kicking a brace -- Derry hit back with three, all from the boot of Gilligan. When he kicked his seventh of the afternoon, the visitors were four points clear.

A Lilywhite onslaught came in the final 10 minutes, with Doyle and Alan Smith halving the deficit with seven minutes still left, but they could make no further imprint on the scoreboard.

Man of the Match -- Conleth Gilligan (Derry).

Scorers -- Derry: C Gilligan 0-7 (3f, 1 '45), P Bradley 0-3 (2f), SL McGoldrick, M Lynch, J Kielt 0-1 each. Kildare: J Doyle 0-7(4f), F Dowling 0-2, P O'Neill, A Smith 0-1 each.

Derry -- M Conlan 7; B McCallion 6, K McCloy 6, D McBride 7; M Drumm 6, B McGoldrick 7, G O'Kane 7; PJ McCloskey 7, N Holly 7; D Mullan 5, SL McGoldrick 7, M Lynch 7; C McGoldrick 6, P Bradley 6, C Gilligan 8. Subs: J Kielt 7 for Mullan (18), C Kielt 7 for Drumm (38), C O'Boyle 5 for C McGoldrick (63), E McGuckian 5 for Lynch (64), J O'Kane 5 for McCloy (67).

Kildare -- S Connolly 7; H McGrillen 7, M Foley 7, T O'Neill 5; E Bolton 6, E Callaghan 6, D Whyte 5, H Lynch 6, P O'Neill 6; B Flanagan 6, E O'Flaherty 6, K Cribbin 7; A Smith 6, J Doyle 7, F Dowling 8. Subs: R Sweeney 6 for Whyte (h-t), A Mac Lochlainn 6 for T O'Neill (h-t), J Kavanagh 5 for O'Flaherty (57).

Ref -- S Doyle (Wexford).

Irish Independent