DERRY maintained their push for promotion with a hard-earned win over bottom of the table Sligo at Markiewicz Park on Sunday, their task made all the more difficult when Eoin Bradley received a straight red card 10 minutes before half-time.
Bradley was dismissed after he clashed with Sligo full back, Neil Ewing, after he’ had been dispossessed by the defender.
Ross Donovan had been given the unenviable task of marking Paddy Bradley but, after his brother’s red card, he found Sligo All Star Charles Harrison deployed as a second marker for the remainder of the game.
Eamon O’Hara was listed at full-forward but spent much of the first half back in his own half, as Derry had the advantage of the strong wind.
With Sligo double-marking Paddy Bradley it meant that Sligo’s numerical advantage was not as advantageous as it might otherwise have been had they used the ‘spare man’ as a more attacking option and the determined Derry defence easily coped, for the most part, with the Sligo attack.
Dermot McBride gave a strong defensive display, safe under the high ball, robust in the tackle and assured under pressure. With Joe O’Kane, another league debutant this season, keeping a watchful eye on Sligo danger-man Mark Brehony, this was a fine display from a formation that was without Gerard O’Kane, Michael Drumm and Brian McCallion.
Furthermore, no matter what defensive formation Sligo used they were unable to curb Paddy Bradley who gave a tour de force aided, it has to be said, by intelligent passing from outfield with Martin Donaghy and Enda Muldoon particularly effective in that regard.
It was Donaghy’s first league start and, after a fine display in the McKenna Cup final, he turned in an excellent performance not only as a provider and carrier of the ball, but also with a two point contribution.
Swatragh’s Michael Friel also made his first league start of the season alongside P. J. McCloskey in the middle of the field and had a good first half, McCloskey making some fine catches.
Derry moved Enda Muldoon to the middle third in the second half and that gave them a firm grip in that sector.
Midfielder P. J. McCloskey commented after the game: “I didn’t even see what happened for the sending off but, before we knew it, we were down to 14 men and it was backs against the wall for 50 odd minutes. We pulled through and it’s good to see that the heart’s coming and it’s good to get a victory here.
“I thought Marty did very well, he’s a good runner off the ball, a good outlet. Even when they had a spare man dropping back, a good strong run can cut that out most of the time. You need that outlet, especially when you’re under pressure with the ball. It was a good victory and we’re looking forward to Donegal next weekend.
“Definitely, in the first half you want to be racking up a big score. We had a big wind and you’d like to think that you’d rack up five or six points of a lead. We were worried on that they might hang on and keep the game close and then come at us when they had the wind in the second half. We did well, we got our tails up again and we got the scores on the board. We held out in the second half and got a few insurance points.
“It’s good to get a crack at it and it’s good to stay injury free. That’s the main thing, to get the games under your belt and stay fit. That’s the first battle you have to beat. When you get out on the pitch, there’s a battle every week. It’s about working hard, it’s about keeping yourself fit, and hopefully all goes well for the rest of the season for everybody.
“We lost one, a bad one against Laois, and we have three wins so we have a massive game against Donegal, a real good side, next weekend. Then we have Meath and Antrim, and if we can push on, we can make something of this league.”
Derry moved ahead inside the first minute when Enda Muldoon hit the target. Man of the match Paddy Bradley then fired over the first of his seven points to give Derry a good start with the wind at their backs.
David Rooney gave the good-sized crowd something to cheer about when he got Sligo on the scoreboard after two minutes, Derry midfielder Michael Friel picking up a yellow card for an off the ball foul.
Martin Donaghy extended Derry’s lead to 0-03 to 0-01, Joe O’Kane with a weak shot to the keeper, Paddy Bradley from play and Enda Muldoon from a free, then missing scoring chances.
In the 15th minute Paddy Bradley sent a shot against the woodwork, Derry struggling to make best use of the wind.
Midway through the half Adrian Marren pointed a Sligo free for 0-03 to 0-02, Martin Donaghy and Francis Quinn exchanging wides before Paddy Bradley took a pass from Martin Donaghy and pointed for 0-04 to 0-02. Kenneth Sweeney had another Sligo wide, Aidan McAlynn off target with a speculative effort for Derry, Paddy Bradley finding the keeper with his long range shot.
Ten minutes from half-time Eoin Bradley was shown a straight red card after an altercation with Sligo’s Neil Ewing.
In the space of five minutes Derry hit three unanswered points, Paddy Bradley putting Derry 0-05 to 0-02 ahead in the 26th minute, then adding another after a superb catch and pass from Enda Muldoon, before pointing a free five minutes from half time.
Francis Quinn had a shot blocked by the alert Derry defence, Enda Muldoon off target at the other end.
Mark Brehony was fouled and pointed the free for Sligo, Enda Muldoon of target from a ‘45’, then picking up a yellow card before centre back Joe O’Kane wided before the half time whistle.
Derry started the second half with a brace of points, Paddy Bradley on target after excellent play from Sean Leo McGoldrick and then from a free when he was fouled in the third minute of the half.
In the 40th minute Enda Muldoon, Paddy Bradley and Martin Donaghy combined to carve open the Sligo defence but the move broke down and the home side counter-attacked at speed.
Joe O’Kane did halt the Sligo attack but was then penalised when he overheld the ball and Adrian Marren pointed the free, the same player adding another after ten minutes of the half.
When Brehony hit another points in the 50th minute Sligo were very much in contention with the wind at their backs but the Derry defence dug deep to hold them scoreless until eight minutes from time.
The game also became a little heated and the referee issued yellow cards to Ross Donovan and Paddy Bradley.
The best chance in this spell fell to Brehony but he was unlucky when the ball came back off the woodwork. Marren was off target from a free, Derry keeper Danny Devlin making a sharp save from Sweeney when O’Hara put him through.
By that stage Paddy Bradley had increased Derry’s lead to four points when he pointed a 60th minute free following a foul on the industrious Donaghy. Marren pointed a Sligo free but a delightful point from P.J. McCloskey gave Derry a four point advantage and, though Marren pointed another free for the home side, they held out for victory.
The Derry scorers were - Paddy Bradley 0-07 (0-03 frees), Martin Donaghy 0-02, Enda Muldoon and P. J. McCloskey 0-01 each.
The Sligo scorers were - Adrian Marren 0-4 (0-03 frees), Mark Brehony 0-02 (0-01 free) and David Rooney 0-01.
DERRY - Danny Devlin; Ciaran Mullan, Kevin McCloy, Dermot McBride; Charlie Kielt, Joe O’Kane, Aidan McAlynn; P. J. McCloskey, Michael Friel; Ciaran McGoldrick, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Martin Donaghy; Eoin Bradley, Paddy Bradley, Enda Muldoon.
Subs.: Declan Mullan for Michael Friel (57 mins.); Emmett McGuckin for Ciaran McGoldrick (63 mins.); Barry McGoldrick for Sean Leo McGoldrick (71 mins.)
SLIGO - Jason Farrell; Charles Harrison, Neil Ewing, Ross Donovan; David Rooney, Mark Quinn, Paul McGovern; Tony Taylor, Sean Davey; Brian Curran, Mark Brehony, Francis Quinn; Adrian Marren, Eamon Hara, Kenneth Sweeney.
Subs.: Alan Costello for Francis Quinn (half-time); Kevin Cawley for Mark Quinn (42 mins.); Pat Hughes for Brian Curran (58 mins.); Stephen Gilmartin for Kenneth Sweeney (65 mins.)
REFEREE - Mr. Robbie O’Donnell (Donegal).