Wednesday 13 December 2017

Revenge sweet as Derry make Poland eat words

DERRY 0-13 DOWN 1-5

Derry goalkeeper Eoin McNicholl keeps hold of the ball as he comes under pressure from Niall Madine
Derry goalkeeper Eoin McNicholl keeps hold of the ball as he comes under pressure from Niall Madine
Derry manager Brian McIver celebrates his team’s victory

Orla Bannon

In the old days, teams might have had to wait years to exact revenge for a provincial championship defeat.

The back-door system and the luck of the draw meant Derry only had to wait five weeks, and they took full advantage on Saturday night as they sent Down crashing out of the championship at Celtic Park.

Down seemed to accept their fate from a long way out and ended the game with 13 men.

Benny McArdle and Kevin McKernan were both dismissed on straight red cards in the last quarter, McKernan's high tackle on Emmet McGuckin coming right at the death.

They were acts of pure frustration by a side that managed just one point from play in the whole game. Donal O'Hare's 64th-minute free was their only score of the second half.

Eoin Bradley revealed that Derry did not need to look very far for motivation for this rematch against their Ulster rivals.

"Mark Poland said in an interview after the last day that they over-ran us and were far fitter than us," said the classy Glenullin sharpshooter. "Well, we outworked them today and we got our own back. That was a bit of motivation for us."

The game was expected to be a lot more defensive than the free-flowing contest the sides served up in the Ulster championship, and so it proved.

After a dull opening 10 minutes, Derry made a better fist of things for most of the first half and should have been ahead at the break.

They got the bodies back, with Mark Lynch and Conor McAtamney dropping deep, but they did commit men forward on the counter-attack and were dangerous on the break.

The Oak Leafers had quite a strong breeze at their backs and made fairly good use of the wind.

Ballinderry's exciting 19-year-old prospect Ryan Bell, who had struggled on his championship debut against Down when asked to deputise in midfield, revelled in a more attacking role and kicked three first-half points from play.

James Kielt kicked two frees, one of them a boomer from 55 metres, as Derry stretched their lead further.

PJ McCloskey – who had missed the last game against Down through injury – dominated the midfield exchanges and made a huge difference. He won a remarkable amount of first-phase possession which gave Derry a foothold in the game they didn't have five weeks before.

Down were mainly relying on frees from O'Hare and didn't score from play until Ambrose Rogers drove over their solitary point from play with the outside of the boot in the 27th minute.

Derry led 0-7 to 0-3 lead with half-time approaching.

Then the visitors pounced, hitting 1-1 in first-half stoppage time, O'Hare finding the net just like he had against the Oak Leafers the previous time.

Daniel McCartan made a rare foray forward and fed Kalum King.

Despite being quickly surrounded by three defenders, he was strong enough to off-load straight into the path of O'Hare, whose low curling finish flew past the goalkeeper's outstretched left hand.

There was still time for O'Hare to tag on a free, drawing Down level at 1-4 to 0-7 at the interval.

The home side recovered well from the setback and played some of their best football against the breeze in the second half.

Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh pulled off a fine save from Eoin Bradley straight after the restart, but Derry kicked on.

Bell kept the scoreboard ticking over as he took his tally to 0-6 and sub Emmet McGuckin landed two points to help Derry ease into the third round of the qualifiers.

Danny Hughes came on for the last 15 minutes, his only appearance in a Down jersey in 2013.

It was too little too late for the Mourne men, who came so close to beating All-Ireland champions Donegal in the Ulster semi-final just two weeks previously.

James McCartan has worked miracles to keep his native county competitive for so long with a host of front-line players missing due to injury and emigration.

He refused to be drawn on his future after his former back-room team members Brian McIver and Paddy Tally helped bring his fourth year in charge to an abrupt end.

"We did not perform today the way we have in our last two championship matches, the boys know that," the Down manager reflected.

"I don't want to take anything away from Derry's victory. I've too much respect for the men who are in charge of them.

"The level of intensity Derry brought, showed they were out for revenge and fair play, they got it."

On his future he added: "You might give an answer you'll regret later on ... there's no point me in trying to guess what that might be".

Scorers – Derry: R Bell 0-6 (1f, 1 '45'), E McGuckin, E Bradley 0-2 each, K Jielt 0-2fs, L Kennedy 0-1. Down: D O'Hare 1-4 (0-4fs), A Rogers 0-1.

DERRY – E McNicholl 7; A McAlynn 7, C McKaigue 8, D McBride 8; C Kielt 8, M Lynch 7, SL McGoldrick 7; P Bradley 7, PJ McCloskey 9; C McAtamney 6, J Kielt 7, E Lynn 6; R Bell 9, E Bradley 7, L Kennedy 6. Subs: E McGuckin 7 for Kennedy (42), B Herron 6 for McAtamney (53), C McFaul for Bell (70).

DOWN – B McVeigh 8; D McCartan 7, B McArdle 6, K Quinn 5; O Costello 5; P Turley 6, R Boyle 6; K King 6, K McKernan 6; A Rogers 7, M Poland 6, N Madine 6; C Laverty 6, J Johnston 6, D O'Hare 8. Subs: B Coulter 5 for Madine (42), R Mallon 5 for Johnston (51), D Hughes 5 for Quinn (55), D Savage 5 for Turley (67), D Turley for McCartan (70).

REF – C Reilly (Meath)

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