Derry 1-18, Kildare 1-17
Emmett McGuckin did his best to headlight the 'James Kielt Show' at Celtic Park on Sunday as the Magherafelt forward's 73rd minute goal brought Derry a dramatic first League win of the season against table-toppers Kildare.
A superb spectacle swung the direction of both side over the course of the 70 odd minutes but when the visitors manufactured a two point lead going into injury time, Derry looked set for a scarcely deserved disappointment.
Kielt inspired the Oak Leafers with some outrageously brilliant points as the Derry came out for the second period and hit eight successive points to turn a first half deficit on it's head. All that looked in vain though as injury time ticked away until Ryan Bell sent a long ball in toward the Kildare posts. The Lilywhites NO. 1 Mark Donnellan thought he had more time that he had, and tried to touch it down before gathering but McGuckin was on him in an instant to punch into the net for the winner.
Controversy reigned though as Tyrone referee Sean Hurson at first awarded a free out before, after consultation with his umpire, reversed the decision and gave the goal and with it the win for Derry.
Derry went into the game with the added pressure of Down having recorded a crucial victory over Meath in Newry which left little room for error ahead of next weekend's meeting between the two counties at Owenbeg.
And yet if the pressure was increased it didn't show as for the opening 15 minutes, both sides played with the freedom of pre-season friendly.
Both team registered some excellent scores in the opening quarter with nine different Kildare scorers in the first 20 minutes.
Daniel Flynn kicked off a busy afternon for the scoreboard with only 24 second gone but a James Kielt free levelled before the first minute had elapsed.
That set the tone for the opening minutes, Enda Lynn then edging Derry ahead for the only time in the half, a lead that again lasted least than a minute with Flynn's second superb score of the game from 45m.
Kildare midfielder Tommy Moolick then continued the exhibition of long range scores but again, Derry responded through a lovely Niall Loughlin point for three points a-piece.
That pattern continued with Kevin Feely and Neil Flynn engineering a two point lead but only after Derry keeper Conor McLarnon had produced a superb low save from Flynn who found himself clear.
The impressive Kielt (2) and Conor McAtamney scored points either side of a Fergal Conway effort as the teams finished the first 15 minutes level at 0-6 a-piece.
Then cane the Healy goal.
The Kildare corner-forward was fouled around 20m out but while the Derry players unadvisedly argued the decision, the lively Healy peeled off and received the quick free from Neil Flynn before side-stepping McLarnon and finishing with a fierce shot.
Niall Flynn quickly ntagged on a point for 1-07 to 0-6 and for a period Derry were suddenly all at sea as Kildare picked holes in their massed defence with far too much ease.
Peter Hagan, who was having a hard time taming Neil Flynn, was replaced by Oisin Hegarty but points from Johnny Byrne, Keith Cribben and Flynn continued the spread of Lilywhite scorers.
Emmett McGuckin almost fisted a goal for Derry but, as it was, scores from Kielt and Carlus McWilliams masked a poor end to the half for the home side who went into the break trailing 1-10 to 0-08.
The second half started with Danny Tallon matching Flynn's 24 second point in the opening half. The next minute was about Kielt. First the Kilrea man scored his third free before unleashing a 'monster' point that must have been touching 60m.
It brought Derry back to withing two points at 0-11 to 1-10 and better was to follow as brilliant work from McGuckin set Kielt up to continue his one man scoring show before the Kilrea player set McWilliams up to tie the game.
And Derry weren't finished yet. Niall Loughlin did his best to upstage Kielt with a lovely solo score but Kielt responded with another huge free to put Derry two ahead with their eight successive score.
But if the Oak Leafer thought they had done the hard work, Kildare quickly reminded them of the form that had taken them top of Division Two as points from Neil Flynn (free) and Niall Kelly tied the game once more.
McWilliams scored his third of the game as Derry led again and they could have put themselves int ot driving seat as McWilliams and McGuckin combined to send Lynn clear. The Greenlough man raced forward and drew the defender before squaring to Loughlin but his low shot was blocked by the legs of Mark Donnellan.
Kildare then saw a gilt edged goal chance dragged past the far post by Eoin Doyle as points from McGuckin and, of course, Kielt reinstated the Oak Leafers' two point advantage.
game Over? Not a chance as Kildare again found the required response despite a black card for Johnny Byrne. Points from Daniel Flynn and Niall Kelly levelled proceedings before another sting in the tail.
Niall Kelly's effort was short with three minutes to go but Neil Flynn was alert to recycle and tap over for a Kildare to lead.
Fergal Conway's fisted point provided the breathing space the visitors needed but there was to be late and welcomed drama for Derry who claimed a first league win of 2017.
Derry: Conor McLarnon; Niall Keenan, Conor Nevin, Peter Hagan; Neil Forester, Oisin Duffin, Michael McEvoy; James Kielt (0-9, 5f), Conor McAtamney (0-1); Enda Lynn (0-1), Emmett McGuckin (1-1), Carlus McWilliams (0-3); Danny Tallon (0-1), Niall Loughlin (0-2), Benny Heron. (Subs) Oisin Hegarty for P Hagan, 23mins; Ryan Bell for D Tallon, 65mins; Mark Craig for O Duffin, 68mins; Gavin O'Neill for C McWilliams, 70mins;
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mick O'Grady, David Hyland, Ollie Lyons; Johnny Byrne (0-1), Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribben (0-1); Kevin Feely (0-1), Tommy Moolick (0-1); Fergal Conway (0-2), Niall Kelly (0-3), Peter Kelly; Neil Flynn (0-5, 4f), Daniel Flynn (0-3),Chris Healy (1-0). (Subs) Cathal McNally for K Cribben, 46mins;Eamonn Callaghan for C Healy, 57mins; Fionn Dowling for T Moolick, 60mins; Conor Hartley for N Flynn, 69mins
Black Card: Johnnyn Byrne (replaced by Shea Ryan (60mins).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).