Return of Meehan blows life into Galway
Galway 1-15 Derry 0-15
NEW Derry manager Brian McIver and his Galway counterpart Alan Mulholland are likely to spend time pondering what went wrong when their teams were playing with the wind at their backs in this clash at Pearse Stadium.
It is the nature of the modern manager that neither McIver nor Mulholland will take much comfort from the strong displays of their charges when they were facing the elements.
Both sides produced their best football playing into the fresh wind coming in off Galway Bay and both will be alarmed by their misfiring displays when they had the weather advantage on a heavy pitch.
But it is McIver who had most to rue when the Ulster side managed just 0-4 when they had the wind in the opening half. While they outscored Galway by 0-11 to 1-7 in the second-half, the damage had already been done.
"Probably the first 15 minutes was the decisive part of that game. We were very nervous, we gave the ball away a lot and we got punished for it," said McIver.
"We really came back in the second half and took the game to Galway. There was a spell there and we were only down a point.
"We had three chances to equalise and maybe take the lead and we didn't take them.
"They went up the field, had one chance and kicked the decisive score of the match," he said.
Michael Meehan was the Galway hero and fittingly got the decisive score of the game.
Meehan, injury-free for the opening of the league for the first time in four years, looked back to his best and his fisted effort four minutes after the restart put Galway six points to the good.
But they still needed points from their four substitutes – Eoin Concannon, Paul Conroy, Gary O'Donnell and Mark Hehir – to seal the win after a spirited Derry comeback.
Mulholland was thrilled to see Meehan back in good form.
"It was great that Michael played 70 minutes. And when we needed guys at the end, Michael was there for us, that's what we need. We need more of that now," he said.
"It shows you just how much of a loss he was. Galway can't have one of the best players in the country out for the last couple of years.
"But, to be honest, we are not really satisfied. We played well in the first half and were very happy at half-time and maybe that was the downfall.
"But after half-time we really let the intensity drop totally. We lost our way and allowed Derry back in and we are very happy to get the two points at the end.
"It is great that we can win and be a little bit disappointed. It is a good thing. But there was some good play in the first half there, something that we can really build on," said Mulholland whose team must now travel to Louth for their next match.
The Tribesmen, with 2007 All-Ireland minor winner Michael Martin superb at centre-forward, were on top in the opening exchanges and they kicked four points in a row before the impressive PJ McCloskey landed Derry's opening score – the first of a personal tally of three points from midfield – after 13 minutes.
McCloskey and Ryan Bell led the Derry comeback in the second quarter, but two pointed frees from Meehan gave the home side a 0-8 to 0-4 lead at the break.
Meehan's rather fortuitous goal triggered the visitors best spell of the game where they kicked six of the next seven points to leave just one point between the sides with 13 minutes remaining.
Galway goalkeeper Manus Breathnach did well to deny Enda Lynn, while at the other end Eoin McNicholl twice saved from Danny Cummins.
Hard as they tried, McIver's men just couldn't kick the crucial equaliser and their efforts gradually took their toll as Galway finished the stronger, Meehan and the four subs putting the final touches on a great opening day win for Mulholland's side.
Man of the Match: Michael Meehan (Galway)
SCORERS – Galway: M Meehan 1-5 (3f), M Martin 0-3, S Armstrong 0-2, D Cummins, P Conroy, M Hehir, G O'Donnell, E Concannon 0-1 each. Derry: PJ McCloskey, E Bradley (3f) 0-3 each, E Lynn, J Kielt, R Bell (1f) 0-2 each, P Bradley, R Wilkinson, B McGoldrick 0-1 each.
GALWAY – M Breathnach 8; J Moore 6, F Hanley 7, J Duane 6; C Sweeney 7, G Sice 6, G Sweeney 6; N Coleman 7, F Ó Curraoin 7; J O'Brien 6, M Martin 8, S Denver 7; S Armstrong 6, M Meehan 9, D Cummins 7. Subs: E Concannon 7 for O'Brien (46), P Conroy 7 for Denver (51), G O'Donnell 6 for C Sweeney (52), M Hehir 6 for Martin (65).
DERRY – E McNicholl 8; R Ferris 6, D McBride 6, C McWilliams 6; C McKaigue 7, M Lynch 6, S L McGoldrick 7; P Bradley 6, PJ McCloskey 7; E Lynn 7, R Bell 7, D Heavron 6; C Devlin 6, E Bradley 7, J Kielt 6. Subs: G O'Kane 7 for McWilliams (29), B McGoldrick 6 for P Bradley (45), R Wilkinson 6 for Devlin (55), E McGuckian 6 for Heavron (61), J McCamley 6 for Kielt (70).
REF – Michael Duffy (Sligo)