All-Ireland SFC Group 4 Round 2: Donegal 1-15 Derry 3-14
Ciarán Meenagh described his feeling as one of ‘contentment’. Across the corridor, Aidan O’Rourke was ‘frustrated’.
So went the meeting of the Football Championship’s newest managers as three second-half goals gave Derry a derby win on a broiling June Bank Holiday in Ballybofey.
Conor Doherty, Lachlan Murray and Pádraig McGrogan all struck gold and their margin would’ve been greater but for Rory O’Donnell’s late consolation for a Donegal side that just ran out of steam in the heat.
The surprise accessions of Meenagh and O’Rourke to the respective positions came in rather differing circumstances, but both were thrust unexpectedly into the spotlight.
Semi-finalists last year, Meenagh believes Derry can dance with the best on this summer’s stage.
“If we had everyone firing on the same day, we’d take quite a bit of beating,” Meenagh said.
“We’re worried about fulfilling our potential and trying to perform at the right time. If our performance is right, we have a good chance of putting it up to anyone.”
Derry put this one to bed just when Donegal might have been getting notions.
Oisín Gallen pulled Donegal to within a goal in the 56th minute, hoisting over his third point in as many minutes. The sight, then, of Patrick McBrearty making his entrance – for a first appearance in four months – might have lifted the decibels, but Murray palmed to the net with his first touch barely a minute later.
Four minutes from the end, McGrogan blasted to the bottom corner after Conor McCluskey stole possession back.
Meenagh said: “We had a feeling with the conditioning and athleticism that we could open up and so it was.
“We created a number of goal chances. We just have to be a bit more clinical in terms of the execution of the final shot.”
McCluskey had a big hand in the first Derry goal, laying it on for Doherty, whose blistering effort gave Shaun Patton little chance.
Gallen’s father, Seán ‘Farrah’, is a barber on Navenny Street in Ballybofey, and the flame-haired forward was razor sharp here. The Seán MacCumhaills forward almost knows the blades of grass here by name.
He clipped nine points and was handed the man of the match award. The crystal appeared of little consolation to Gallen, bitterly disappointed by the five-point defeat.
“Devastated,” Gallen said through gritted teeth. “We are very disappointed. We were looking to get two points to get us into the quarter-finals. We will look back at that game and think we should have won it.”
Donegal were wasteful in the first half, while goalkeeper Shaun Patton saved superbly from both Benny Heron and Paul Cassidy.
At the other end, Brendan Rogers blocked on the goal-line from Jason McGee, who was initially denied by Odhrán Lynch.
Derry just had a little bit more nous and Shane McGuigan’s point, with the final kick of the first half, put them 0-9 to 0-6 in front. At that, they were well on their way, even if Donegal did find a kick at times.
A dejected O’Rourke said: “All three of their goals came from us turning over the ball in the forward line. It’s a cruel lesson for the boys. Ultimately it’s hugely frustrating because we competed in nearly every facet of the game.”
DONEGAL: S Patton (0-1, a 45); M Curran, B McCole, C McColgan; C Ward, E Gallagher, O Doherty; C McGonagle, J McGee; D Ó Baoill, J Brennan, C Thompson (0-2, one free); H McFadden, O Gallen (0-9, four frees, two marks), C O’Donnell (0-2).
Subs: L McGlynn for Brennan (52 mins), P McBrearty (0-1, free) for O Baoill (56), R O’Donnell (1-0) for McGee (58), S McMenamin for Doherty (61), J Mac Ceallabhui for Ward (69).
DERRY: O Lynch; C McKaigue, E McEvoy, C McCluskey; C Doherty (1-0), G McKinless, P McGrogan (1-0); C Glass (0-1), B Rogers (0-2); N Toner (0-1), Paul Cassidy (0-4), E Doherty; C McFaul (0-2), S McGuigan (0-3, two frees), B Heron (0-1).
Subs: N Loughlin for Toner (46), Pádraig Cassidy for Heron (52), L Murray (1-0) for McFaul (56), D Cassidy for McEvoy (65), S Downey for McKaigue (70).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).