Bloomin’ Marvellous Start!

SCRAMBLE. . . .NialL Ferris scores the opening goal of the match for Derry at Celtic Park in Sunday's National League Division 2A clash. 2402JM04
SCRAMBLE. . . .NialL Ferris scores the opening goal of the match for Derry at Celtic Park in Sunday's National League Division 2A clash. 2402JM04

GER Rogan is not a man for clichés.

Michael Wilson was at Celtic Park

Photographs: Keith Moore

His dedicated and professional approach to the Derry senior management post has already challenged the tried and tested notion that hurling should be regarded as a ‘second class sport’ within the Oak Leaf County. He simply won’t accept that.

But it now appears someone also forgot to tell him the one about it being ‘a game of two halves’. Just ask Wicklow!

When referee Liam McAuley blew his whistle to signal the end of the opening 35 minutes of Division 2A league action at Celtic Park on Sunday, he could have saved both teams the trouble of reappearing for the second half. The contest was long over such was the standard of hurling produced by Rogan’s team against a Garden County side which had been their ‘bogey’ team in recent seasons. It was close to a perfect half of hurling and Wicklow never counted.

Normally at this juncture, analysis would throw its spotlight on the one or two players who stood out but space does not allow that here. There was no one Oak Leaf player head and shoulders above his team mates; every player in red and white was superb.

Goals from Niall Ferris and an audacious left footed finish from Kevin Hinphey were highlights but they merely put the seal on a blistering half which saw Derry go into the break 18 POINTS up at 2-14 to 0-02! And the scoreline didn’t flatter Rogan’s team.

That tally suggests a starring role from the front men and when every one of your starters from midfield forward gets on the scoreboard it says a lot about a team’s display but Derry were equally as impressive in defence.

Twice in the first half Derry thwarted almost certain Wicklow goals through first Hinphey and then Paddy Kelly. On both occasions the sliotar had dissected the Wicklow posts within 10 seconds of that superb defending. Wicklow simply had no response.

Even Conor Quinn’s unfortunate first half injury on 21 minutes didn’t upset the momentum. Kelly slotted in at full-back and Derry continued to steamroller Wicklow’s whose dangerman Jonathan O’Neill got no change out of a back line that swarmed all over Wicklow throughout.

Further forward, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Grant and Niall Ferris provided a pace and drive Wicklow couldn’t cope with while Kevin and Liam Hinphey and captain Ruairi Convery provided a calming influence and dictated most of Derry’s play.

Wicklow arrived with a big reputation and scored within 32 seconds but two points and three wides was all they could muster in the face of that first half barrage. Derry were already taking control when Ferris registered his side’s first goal. Oisin McCloskey probably should have scored himself after fashioning the opening but when he was dispossessed by three Wicklow backs, Ferris was on hand to fire the loose ball into the unguarded net.

Derry continued to tag on the scores before, on 26 minutes, Kevin Hinphey gathered possession in the midfield and drove straight at the Wicklow defence, going past three backs before producing the type of left footed finish that wouldn’t look out of place on All Ireland football final day. It was sublime!

That strike made it 2-08 to 1-02 but Derry never let up, registering another six unanswered points to close out the half and the game by the interval.

It seems almost remiss to state that the performance dropped in the second half. It had to. Yes, Wicklow were the better team after the break but to criticise Derry for that is to miss the point. The job had been done. Never at any point did the Garden County look like getting a foothold back in the game. In any other circumstances, 27 minutes without a score would be a cause for major concern as would Derry’s second half tally of five points but this is a game of two halves. Isn’t it?

Derry - Daryl McDermott; Conor McSorley, Conor Quinn, John McCloskey; Ruairi McCloskey, Liam Hinphey, Paddy Kelly, Chrissy Convery (0-1), Kevin Hinphey (1-2); Brendan Rodgers (0-2), Ruairi Convery (0-7, 5f), Alan Grant (0-2); Paul Cleary (0-1), Oisin McCloskey (0-1), Niall Ferris (1-3). (Subs) Paddy Henry for C Quinn (inj), 21mins; Tiernan McCloskey for P Cleary, 55mins; Darragh McCloskey for C McSorley, 57mins; Breandan Quigley for L Hinphey, 58mins;

Wicklow - Joe Murphy; Seanie Kinsella, Bill Cuddihy, Peter Keane; Gary Byrne, Liam Kennedy (0-1), Geoffrey Bermingham; John Henderson, Brian Osbourne; Christy Moorehouse (0-1), Shane Byrne, Ronan Keddy; Mickey Lee, Andy O’Brien, Jonathan O’Neill (0-7, 3f, 1 sixty-five). (Subs) Jim Connors for J Henderson, H/T; Gavin Byrne for B Osbourne, H/T; Gavin Weir (0-1) for A O’Brien, H/T; Paul Gahan for C Moorehouse, 50mins; Eoin Mason for S Kinsella, 55mins.

Referee - Liam McAuley (Antrim)