DERRY manager John Brennan is refusing to rule out a late bid for promotion after his side got back to winning ways with an impressive three point victory over Meath in Páirc Tailteann, Navan on Sunday.
Michael WIlson reports.
With Tyrone already promoted following Sunday’s win over Galway, victories over Louth and Westmeath would see Derry finish on eight points and dependent on how Kildare and Galway finish their respective league campaigns with the teams due to face ech other in Tuam on the final week.
Derry require Westmeath to get a result in Kildare next weekend, something the form table suggests is highly unlikley and Brennan is content to concentrate on matters within the Oak Leafers’ control.
“There’s still a chance if we win our last two games but they are going to be very difficult against two teams fighting for the lives,” explained the Lavey man.
“Realistically we probably still need another two points ourselves to be sure of safety. Next weekend is going to be a very big game for us. The Louth game is crucial and it is frustrating when we look back at the Kildare and Galway games, matches we should’ve won. Two wins in those games and we would have been well in the promotion race. As it is we have to continue to do our job and hope results elsewhere go for us.”
Sunday’s game saw midfielder Patsy Bradley complete a first 70 minutes for over a year while Criagbane’s Blaine Gormley also impressed with Enda Lynn looking lively in attack.
“I was very happy in the sense that we left two points behind in Kildare the previous week - albeit with some controversial decisions - because we didn’t stick the the gameplan. On Sunday we stuck to the plan and every player deserves praise, those that started and those who came on.
“That was a our second long journey in succession and that’s difficult. It often doesn’t get reported the sacrifices these players make but they deserve credit and there were a lot of positives. Probably the most significant one was we got through the game without any new injuries for the first time in a while but it was also good to see Eoghan Brown get some game time again.
“Patsy Bradley also played the full 70 minutes for the first time in over a year which is good news for us. Blaine Gormley, another new player to the panel, did very well and scored two magnificent ‘45s. He made them look very simple but good players can do that. He has come in with a lot of experience from his club who had a good run last season and did well against Meath.
“Everyone blended nicely and we probably should have won by more but the breeze was difficult in the second half. It was swirling about and we kicked a few short but I wouldn’t blame the players for that, that was down the the instructions I gave them.”
Four first half points from Paddy Bradley, combined with one from the impressive Lynn had Derry level with Meath at 0-05 each midway through the first half.
With Patsy Bradley securing a plentiful amount of possession around the middle, a point from corner back Brian McCallion and one of those aformentioned ’45s from Gormley ensured the Oak Leafers held a narrow half time lead of 0-07 to 0-06.
The second half saw Meath - who kicked 15 wides during the game- continually try to work their way into goal scoring chances but coming up against a Derry defence in miserly mood with the full-back line of Chrissy McKague, Aidan McAlynn and McCallion doing well. So much so in fact that the home side were limited to just one point from play in the second 35 minutes. In contrast Derry used their possession much more efficiently.
After Stephen Bray levelled matters at the start of the second period, two frees from Conleith Gilligan and Gormley’s second ’45 gave Derry the platform for victory at 0-10 to 0-07 with 20 minutes remaining. Bray reduced that margin to two, but points from Patsy Bradley, Lynn and Charlie Kielt gave Derry a fully deserved victory and a much needed two-points.
“I was pleased with the players and pleased for them,” added Brennan, “They stuck to the plan. Barry Dillon had mapped out an excellent game-plan but we now have to continue that. We can’t go back to the bad tactics that cost us in earlier games
“Our defence looked very good. Chrissy McKaigue again did well at full-back but Aidan McAlynn and Brian McCallion also did very well. It‘s a help that they are able to play a few games together now, that gives a degree of continuity. I suppose people could say Meath were a bit wasteful but when we kicked six or seven wides against Monaghan, people said we were a bad team. Remember, we kicked wides too and we were through one-on-one and missed when we should’ve scored.”
The Derry manager said Meath’s inability to find the target was down to Derry’s hard work in defence.
“In the second half, Meath tried to work the ball in for goals and they were shooting from impossible angles. You might score one or two like that but you are not going to score regularly. Rather than blaming Meath’s shooting, I would say that was down to good Derry defending. Our defence was forcing them to shoot under pressure and from angles they did not want to, that’s good defence.
“Overall, it was a good result and one the players deserved but now we have to carry it into the last two games,” he added
Derry: Barry Gillis; Brian McCallion (0-1), Chrissy McKaigue, Aidan McAlynn; Charlie Kielt (0-1), Mark Craig, Sean Leo McGoldrick; Michael Friel, PJ McCloskey; Patsy Bradley (0-1), Conleith Gilligan (0-2, 2f), Blaine Gormley (0-2, two 45s); Enda Lynn (0-2), Paddy Bradley (0-4, 2f), Cailean O’Boyle. Subs: Eugene Scullion for McCallion (61 mins), Neil Forrester for C Gilligan (66 mins), Eoghan Browne for M Friel (70 mins).
Meath: D Gallagher; M Burke, K Reilly, C O’Connor; C King, B Menton, G Reilly (0-1); T Walsh, M Ward; S Kenny (0-1), S Bray (0-5, 3f), D Tobin; P Gilsenan, C Ward (0-2, 2f) S McAnarney. Subs: G O’Brien for O’Connor (18 mins), A Forde for King (51 mins), C Gillespie (61 mins), B Farrell (0-1, f) for C Ward (67 mins).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).