Fourteen man Derry earn their place in League final against Mayo
Derry 2-15 Mayo 1-16
Derry over came the dismissal of midfielder Fergal Doherty early in the first half to see off the challenge of Mayo in the National League semi-final.
Brian McIver’s side maintained their excellent run of form to claim a two-point victory and deservedly take their place in the final.
Mayo were first out of the traps with an Alan Freeman free from the Hogan Stand side followed quickly by an Aidan O’Shea point before the surprise package of the season Derry found their feet.
Mark Lynch bagged the Oak Leaf’s first score of the day before both sides traded scores, Ciaran McFaul and Emmett McGuickin for the Ulster men, Keith Higgins and Freeman for Mayo.
In an open game, Derry raised the first green flag of the day on the quarter-hour mark. A surging run from Mark Lynch saw the ball off-loaded to McGuickin and with the ball pinging around the area, Cailean O’Boyle drilled his shot past Rob Hennelly in the Mayo goals.
The reaction was impressive from last year’s All Ireland finalists. A lofted point from Mikey Sweeney was soon followed by a goal of their own. Aidan O’Shea managed to fist the ball to Kevin McLoughlin before shipping a challenge from Fergal Doherty. Mikey Sweeney was then involved in the counter-attack, feeding Andy Moran, who finished to the net.
To add insult to injury, Derry were then reduced to 14 men when the referee dismissed Doherty for his challenge on O’Shea, his second booking of the game after 25 minutes of action.
On the half hour mark the sides were level, with Sean Leo McGoldrick cancelling out a fine score from the ever-energetic wing-back Lee Keegan.
In a nip-and-tuck opening half, Lynch and Sweeney swapped points before the Derry forward made sure his side entered the break with the slenderest of leads.
The second half began in a similar pattern to the first as both sides struggled to push ahead, with Doherty and Freeman prominent in the Mayo forward line and O’Boye keeping the Derry scoreboard ticking over.
Mayo went close to getting their second goal as Donal Vaughan moved forward with menace, but it was Derry who found the third goal of the game. Wing-back Kevin Johnston palmed to the net after good work from his fellow wing-back McGoldrick, waltzing through the Mayo rearguard.
Again Mayo responded with a quick brace of points, but the 14 men displayed grit, determination and a clever gameplan to remain in the hunt.
Lynch struck over another fine individual score and Enda Lynn then edged Mayo in front with three minutes remaining. Lynch, such a thorn in the Mayo side, tacked on another two points, before Moran grabbed a consolation score for the losers.