Impressive Derry outclass Clare to maintain promotion push

Goals from Heron and McKinless help Oak Leaf men to another victory

Clare 0-10 Derry 2-13

Derry remain on top of Division 2 of the AFL, defeating Clare by nine points on Sunday at Cusack Park Ennis, in front of a crowd of 1,478.

This victory makes it four wins out of four for Rory Gallagher’s charges and puts them in pole position to challenge for a Division One spot next season.

Clare, who were unbeaten going into this game, albeit on the back of one victory and two draws, were totally outclassed in the second half by a Derry outfit that produced a pair of goals at judicious junctures, through Benny Heron and substitute Gareth McKinless.

Despite playing with the wind and being the better-balanced side in the opening half, Derry were only a point ahead at the break (0-6 to 0-5).

They opened their account within a minute of the throw-in with a Paul Cassidy point from play and the lead was doubled in the fourth, thanks to an Oisín McWilliams' fisted effort.

Clare got off the mark on five minutes thanks to a right-footed point from play by corner-forward Aaron Griffin.

Half-back Pádraig McGrogan made it three to one by the seventh minute and with nine minutes to go before the break, Derry had increased their lead to three (0-6 to 0-3). But a late Clare rally yielded two pointed frees, one apiece by Keelan Sexton and team captain Eoin Cleary.

Clare manager Colm Collins’ team-talk at half-time must have inspired his charges as following the restart they quickly equalised through Darren O’Neill. The tall mid-fielder produced the point of the afternoon under defensive pressure but this inspirational score was clinically overshadowed by a swift goal and a point from the visitors.

Niall Loughlin converted a 20m free following a foul on Conor Glass and moments later Benny Heron was in for a goal after his side intercepted a poor Clare kick-out.

Turning point

It proved to be the turning point of the game as Derry forged ahead from then on. Oisín McWilliams added another point from open play and in almost a blink of an eye, the game turned from being level to a five-point game.

Two more Derry points by Ethan Bradley and Shane McGuigan preceded a second goal by substitute Gareth McKinless. The returning-from-injury attacker, fly-kicked to the net, following some poor Clare defending.

The game was now firmly over as a contest when the green flag was raised, with the visitors 2-10 to 0-7 to the good. A third Derry goal was spurned in the 59th minute when Loughlin blazed wide of the left upright, letting Clare off the hook.

But Derry had put in a good shift and their promotion prospects were still on track long before the final whistle. The introduction of McKinless just before the break upped the ante for the Oak Leaf County and a vastly improved second -half performance secured the valuable league points.

DERRY: O Lynch, C McKaigue, B Rogers, C McCluskey, E Doherty (0-1), P McGrogan (0-1), C Doherty, C Glass, E Bradley (0-2), P Cassidy (0-1), S McGuigan (0-3, three frees), O McWilliams (0-2), B Heron (1-0), N Loughlin (0-1, free), L Murray (0-1).

Subs: G McKinless (1-0) for Murray (33), C McFaul (0-1) for McWilliams (45), N Toner for Heron (54), M Downey for Loughlin (60), B McCarron for E Doherty (67).

CLARE: S Ryan, M Doherty, C Brennan, C Rouine, C O'Dea, E Collins, A Sweeney, C O'Connor (0-1), D O'Neill (0-1), J Malone, E Cleary (0-1, free), P Lillis, A Griffin (0-1), K Sexton (0-5, three frees), P Collins.

Subs: C Jordan for E Collins (47), D Tubridy for P Collins (49), E McMahon 0-1) for Malone (55), C Downes for Griffin (65), D Keating for O'Neill (70).

Referee: C Lane (Cork)

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