Magill makes most of chance

 

A STUNNING second-half display, capped by a superb goal by Gary Magill 12 minutes from time, earned National League holders Derry a deserved place in this year's quarter-finals.

For a lengthy period the game was in doubt, Celtic Park covered in a blanket of snow as fans began to arrive at around 1.0 p.m. Howe ever, feverish work by officials and locals cleared the snow from the pitch and referee Pat McEneaney ruled that he would start the match at 3.0 p.m., 30 minutes after the scheduled throw-in.

In the second half Derry, despite losing the impressive Damien Barton with a facial injury, upped the tempo and Meath failed to respond, even though a late fisted Tommy Dowd goal made it an anxious final minute for the home aside.

Derry showed 11 changes from the team which drew with Donegal and Magill grabbed his chance to impress in splendid fashion. Not only did he give Graham Geraghty a torrid time, he also scored two excellent points and turned the game irrevocably in Derry's favour with a cracking goal.

Over the hour the Derry defence gave little away, Dermot Heaney and Henry Downey sealing off the middle and Tony Scullion, Fergal McCusker, and Kieran McKeever. rock solid on the flanks. Apart from the late goal, the Meath attack had little to offer as they were restricted to three points from play.

There was not a lot between the midfield pairings but Brian McGilligan and Rory Boylan gained control for long periods of the second half. Barton was the Derry play-maker in the opening period but Derry tended to overplay the ball, not using their inside trio to best advantage.

After the interval there was a more direct approach, with Magill, Joe Brolly and Seamus Downey to the fore as the Meath defence wilted under constant pressure. Meath conceded frees and Brolly, who scored four points, punished those indiscretions. Yet it was the brilliant Magill, with 1-2 who grabbed the decisive score that sent Derry into the knockout stages.

Three times the sides were level in the opening half, until, in the 19th minute, Brolly drilled over his second point from a free to give Derry an interval 0-4 to 0-3 lead.

Midway through the half Brolly put Derry ahead again, 0-7 to 0-6. Then 12 minutes from time Scullion broke up a dangerous Meath raid and the ball was quickly transferred upfield through McCusker and Boylan before Magill beat Meath goalkeeper Conor Martin with a powerful strike.

Brolly had another point, Trevor Giles responding to narrow the gap to four points. Magill, Brolly and Downey fired over points to give Derry a seven-point cushion with just three minutes remaining.

In a tense finish Giles pointed and Dowd fisted a Geraghty cross to the net but Derry held out for a fine victory.