Resurgent Derry prove too strong for Dublin
Exhibition of long-range shooting from Mark Lynch tilts balance Derry’s way
Derry’s Declan Mullan holds off the challeneg of Dublin’s Jonny Cooper. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/Inpho/Pressseye
Derry 1-16 Dublin 0-13
Summer suddenly can’t come quickly enough for the Derrymen. A small, jubilant home crowd gathered near the dressing room here to discuss a hugely encouraging performance against the All-Ireland champions.
Derry lived dangerously at times and required a sublime long-range shooting exhibition from Mark Lynch to steer them through a period of ferocious pressure in the key period of this gripping league game.
The Banagher man fired 1-8, including four quality frees, and generally thrilled the Celtic Park locals. It was in 1983 that Derry witnessed the last home win over the metropolitans, a fact that speaks more about how seldom the Dubs have visited than a lopsided history between the teams. But it has been a while since they have felt so good about Gaelic football in the old city.
Yesterday, Derry continued in the mood of composure and adventure with has marked their play in the top flight. Again Brian McIver set his defence to go one-on-one with the most feared attack in the country and lived to tell the tale. This was a game defined by some wonderful score- taking by both teams and really aggressive pressure on the ball-carriers.
At times, it boiled over: after 56 minutes, Mark Craig was sent off for picking up two quick yellows but Dublin’s numerical advantage was cancelled out when Philly McMahon was collared for felling Mark Lynch off the ball and earning himself a straight red.
McMahon, in busy form at full back, was fortunate to still be on the field having caught Cailean O’Boyle with a blow to the head as the rangy full-forward collected a ball. O’Boyle had been a worry for Dublin and was denied a probable black-card penalty late in the first half after getting goalside of Sean George.
But he couldn’t continue after tangling with McMahon and all shape and purpose evaporated from the Derry attack with his departure. So the pick of Lynch’s 1-8 was the thumped point from 45 metres in the 57th minute, which disrupted 14 minutes when Dublin slipped into a smooth attacking groove orchestrated by Alan Brogan.
The elder Brogan was the most starlit name of the late inclusions for the All-Ireland champions, who started just six of the team who marched in the parade last September.
“Good to see Alan back,” nodded Jim Gavin.
“We had a few cry-offs during the week and again this morning there were opportunities for a few guys and Alan took his with both hands.”
He did, striking five economical points from play and showing that the familiar sharpness has not deserted him. Dublin trailed by 1-10 to 0-9 at half time and created two terrific goal chances on the resumption, Tomás Brady directing his off the post and Darren Daly driving a gaping opportunity wide.
Those chances served as warning flares through an increasingly toe-to-toe game, with ball-carriers like Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley and Derry’s Gerard O’Kane thriving in the holes that began to open up for both teams.
But Derry’s defenders were unflagging: Chrissy McKeigue eventually quietened a game Eoghan O’Gara, Kevin Johnston put out fires across the half-back line and O’Kane had a towering game.
Goalkeeper Thomas Mallon made a crucial save when Davy Byrne came flying through on 29 minutes and his kick-outs were immaculate all afternoon.
The save was a turning point: three minutes later, Lynch raced on to a weighted pass from Kevin Johnston to beat Cluxton, giving Derry a goal advantage they held until the end.
“We had done our best to try and evaluate where we are at,” said pleased Derry manager McIver. “They learned today that on the same field as the All-Ireland champions they are capable of playing football. The last two Sundays were massive tests and the lads really stepped up to the mark and learned a lot about themselves. Today the atmosphere was fantastic here.
“We will go away now and think about Kildare. There is still loads of football to play.”
But so far, Derry’s season is rich with promise. They shrugged off the loss of the Kielt brothers through illness and Emmet McGuckin hours before throw-in and went score for score with Dublin through a very open first half hour. And when the pace turned hectic, they were equal to it. Fergal Doherty has added physical and mental heft to the heart of the Derry team.
He has formed a strong midfielder partnership with Patsy Bradley and also steamed forward to pitch in with two points, the first of which might have yielded a goal. Ciarán Fall and Benny Heron also concocted wonderful points from nothing, scores which would have stood out had Lynch not had one of those days when he seemed capable of scoring from anywhere.
For the small loyal band of Dublin followers who stood on the terrace at the Brandywell side, the long trip north offered a glimpse of Dublin’s strength in depth. Jim Gavin, too, had impromptu changes to make, with Kevin McManamon and James McCarthy both unable to start.
The crisp supply of ball through the lively Paddy Andrews and O’Gara showcased the Dubs at their best early on and the visitors had really begun to squeeze Derry when the pair of dismissals occurred, breaking the game’s pattern. Cian O’Sullivan and, in particular, Macauley carried the fight in the closing ten minutes but the day closed with a glorious point from Benny Heron and hints that Derry are rising again.
DERRY: T Mallon; M Craig, C McKaigue, D McBride; K Johnston, G O’Kane, SL McGoldrick; F Doherty (0-2), P Bradley; C McFaul (0-2), M Lynch 1-8, 0-4 frees), E Lynn; B Heron (0-2), D Mullan (0-1), C O’Boyle (0-1). Subs: R Bell for C O’Boyle (41 mins inj), C McGoldrick for Bell (55 mins), A Devlin for C McFall (55 mins), A McAlynn for F Doherty (65 mins).
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; S George, P McMahon (0-1), M Fitzsimons; D Daly, D Nelson, J Cooper; C O’Sullivan, MD Macauley (0-1); D Byrne, P Andrews (0-2), B Cullen; P Hudson (0-2 frees), E O’Gara, A Brogan (0-6, one free). Subs: K Nolan for George (half-time), T Brady for B Cullen (half-time), J Whelan (0-1 free) for P Hudson (half-time), N Devereux for D Nelson (45 mins), D Reddin for D Byrne (50 mins), D O’Mahony for O’Sullivan (65 mins).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).