Meath 2-11 Derry 1-16
They say a league table never lies but in Derry’s case perhaps it doesn’t tell the full truth.
A fifth win of the campaign came in Navan, courtesy of a strong finish that allowed them to come from five points down with 10 minutes of normal time remaining, ultimately left Derry on 11 points in Division Two.
They were promoted as Division Two table toppers with that tally in 2013, as Donegal were in 2014, Galway in 2017 and Roscommon in both 2018 and 2020.
In fact, on three occasions throughout the last decade, nine points has been enough for teams to gain promotion to Division One, hence Derry manager Rory Gallagher’s clear frustration afterwards.
They needed to beat Meath in Navan, which they did thanks largely to Niall Loughlin’s 1-4 haul, and hope that second-placed Roscommon slipped up to Galway. But with the Rossies in control throughout the afternoon, it always looked like a lost cause.
So Derry will stay in Division Two for another season and content themselves that they will at least have Dublin for company.
“I would doubt a team from Division Two hasn’t gone up with 11 points over the years,” said Gallagher, who pointed to their round five draw with Roscommon as the deciding factor overall. “Look, I’ll tell you, it was frustrating what happened in Roscommon. I was frustrated not winning that game.
“But look, any good team has to have a test along the way. The Dublin six-in-a-row team didn’t just arrive. Tyrone didn’t just arrive, they had tough days. I was involved with Donegal and we just about stayed up on the last day in 2012 and we went on to win [the All-Ireland].”
Derry will be back in action on May 1st against Fermanagh or Tyrone in the Ulster championship and will hope for a less schizophrenic performance.
They began brightly and finished strongly. In between, they lost their way at times and struggled off their own kick-outs, allowing Meath to finish the first half with a kick and move 1-7 to 0-7 clear.
Jack O'Connor struck the Royals' goal and the lead didn't flatter them as Derry, earlier leading by 0-6 to 0-2, appeared to capitulate after Shane McGuigan's 13th-minute penalty was saved by Harry Hogan.
Bryan Menton was fouled for a Meath penalty at the same end in the 50th minute and Shane Walsh converted. With 10 minutes remaining, Meath led by five points and, seemingly, had things wrapped up.
Remarkably, they were outscored by 0-1 to 1-5 from there with Loughlin’s 65th-minute goal the clincher.
MEATH: H Hogan (0-3, one free, two 45s); R Ryan, C McGill, E Harkin; D Keogan, G McGowan, J McEntee (0-1); B Menton (0-1), R Jones (0-2, one mark); J Scully, T O'Reilly (0-1), M Costello (0-1); J Wallace (0-1), J O'Connor (1-1), S Walsh (1-0, pen).
Subs: E Devine for Jones (41 mins), B McMahon for Devine (52-55 blood), McMahon for Scully (59), J Flynn for Devine (64-f/t, blood), R Clarke for McGowan (69), J Conlon for O'Connor (72).
DERRY: O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rodgers, C McCluskey; P Cassidy, M McGrogan (0-1), C Doherty (0-1); C Glass (0-1), E Bradley; C McFaul, E Doherty (0-1), P Cassidy; B Heron (0-1), S McGuigan (0-6, two frees), N Loughlin (1-4, two frees).
Subs: S Downey for Pádraig Cassidy (31 mins), N Toner (0-1) for Heron (50), L Murray for Paul Cassidy (59), S Heavron for E Doherty (64), P McNeill for C Doherty (75).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).