Classy Kielt leads the charge as clinical Derry finish with aplomb
Captain and centre-forward inspirational as Monaghan are outgunned in final quarter
Monagahan 2-11 Derry 2-15
And so to Clones, a few hundred hardy souls ambling down the hill to St Tiernach’s Park like bears emerging from hibernation. They got their reward too, a not unpleasant game that toppled Derry’s way in the end.
Ultimately, it’s probable that Derry’s handful of games before Christmas in winning the O’Fiach Cup stood to them against a Monaghan side who were on their team holiday in New York at the time. Brian McIver’s side had four points to spare come the final whistle and they did their winning in the closing half hour. Monaghan looked to have taken the reins pretty forcefully when corner-forward Chris McGuinness put them 2-8 to 2-5 up on 43 minutes. But from there to the end of the game, Derry outscored the home side by 0-10 to 0-4 and managed to go the whole of a blustery second half without a single wide.
By contrast, Monaghan lost their way in front of goal in that second period, kicking seven wides and dropping five shots into the hands of Thomas Mallon in the Derry goal. January kinks, there to be ironed out as the calendar pages turn.
As an advertisement for the worth of the black card, incidentally, it was a good first day. As McIver pointed out, nobody had particular cause to bring it up until the press did so at the end. Referee Ciaran Branagan flashed two yellows over the course of the afternoon but by and large the game flowed well.
A few times on either side a player running through from the half-forward was allowed to advance to pop a point as defenders thought better of throwing a lazy arm in. Easily done when the stakes are this low, of course, and no pudding will have its proof until the summer. But not a bad start.
“To be fair to the referee, it was a good hard-hitting game from both sides and that is the way I would like it to be,” said McIver afterwards.
“You don’t want Gaelic football to become a totally non-contact sport. You have to allow good hitting . . . . In the dressing room before the game there we just said, ‘Look, these are the things you know you can’t do so don’t do them.’ I would hate to see the season dictated by the black card.”
Derry had the better of the first half and were a mite unlucky to only lead by a point at the break. Led stylishly by the unflustered class of captain and centre-forward James Kielt, they had a couple of goals on the board by the half hour and could have had another.
Enda Lynn waltzed through the middle of the Monaghan defence for the first on 22 minutes and four minutes later Mark Lynch saw his shot rebound off the butt of the post.
But Kielt was on hand to tap home the second goal soon as the Monaghan backline fell asleep at a sideline ball. A fortunate Ryan Wylie goal on the stroke of half-time kept Monaghan in touch at 1-6 to 2-4 and they made the most of it after the break with fine points from Paul Finlay and McGuinness.
But although McGuinness put them three points up soon after, it was only a prelude to seven points on the spin from Derry, whose shooting was exceptional for the time of year. A couple of Jack McCarron frees brought Monaghan back within a point but Derry stretched clear in the closing minutes.
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; C Boyle, K Duffy, R Wylie (1-0); F Kelly, D Mone, P McKenna (0-2); G Doogan (0-1), K Hughes; D Malone, J McCarron (0-3, 0-2 frees), S Carey; C McGuinness (1-1), P Finlay (0-2), D McKenna (0-1, free). Subs: K O’Connell for Wylie (temp), 33-42 mins; T Kerr for Malone (41 mins); P Donaghy for Carey ( 41), V Corey (0-1) for Doogan ( 54); P Keenan for Boyle, (54 mins).
DERRY: T Mallon; D Browne, O Duffy (0-1), M McShane; C McWilliams, C Kielt (0-1), SL McGoldrick (0-1); F Doherty, M Lynch (0-2, one free); C McFaul (0-1), J Kielt (1-4, 0-1 free), E Lynn (1-1); D Mullan (0-2), E McGuckin (0-1), B Heron (0-1, free). Subs: P Bradley for Doherty, (45 mins); C McGoldrick for Lynn (45 ), A Kerrigan for Mullan ( 54) ; N Holly for Heron (57)
Referee: C Branagan (Down)