Derry manager John Brennan says he want his players to get used to winning trophies by defending the McKenna Cup.
Michael Wilson reports
The Oak Leafers set up Sunday’s semi-final clash against James McCartan’s Down after chalking up their third victory in this year’s competition in Wednesday’s two-point win over Donegal in Ballybofey
Attention now turns to the Armagh Showgrounds for Sunday’s last four clash (throw-in 2.00pm) which will form part of a semi-final double-header with Tyrone and Fermanagh in the other game.
Brennan has yet to taste McKenna Cup defeat since taking over as Derry manager and he maintains the competition is perfect preparation for his team’s National League campaign.
“Down is another game for us,” explained the Derry manager.
“It will be more competitive and granted we have not that long to prepare for it but the important thing is that it is another game, a semi-final. It’s a game we want to win and defend the cup we won last year.
“We heard all the talk last year about it being so many years since Derry were in any final and won anything so we want to retain the Dr. McKenna Cup.”
A Conleith Gilligan penalty following a foul on Cailean O’Boyle after barely three in Ballybofey gave Derry a cushion which, in the end, proved decisive in Wednesday’s game and the Derry manager was, once again, satisfied with his team’s efforts.
“It is nice to come up to Ballybofey and win a game. For the time of the year, I thought it was a reasonable game.
Derry were lethargic in the first half. We played a game on Saturday night and were out again on Monday night and the boys were doing weights last night.
“At this time of the year things can be a wee bit over the top with regards to training and I think that gave rise to our staleness lack of drive lack of energy in the first half.”
In truth, Donegal had little to play for but provided good opposition for the Oak Leaf men for much of the contest, although the game fizzled out in the second period.
Both sides had made changes with Derry making eight alterations from the side that defeated UUJ at the weekend. Donegal again had an experimental side out with a number of players unavailable due to niggling injuries such as Christy Toye, Eamonn McGee and Stephen Griffin.
It was a very entertaining opening half despite referee Padraig Hughes blowing 32 frees and flashing five yellow cards.
“Donegal played well and kicked a few good long range scores from 40 or 45m while our decision making in the first half wasn’t good,” added Brennan
“We got our penalty and had a glorious chance of a goal but the fella just caught it and blasted it. All he had to do was carry it a few metres and then tap it home but I was glad in so much that we did not give Donegal a chance of on goal while we had four goal chances.
There was a whirlwind opening with Dermot Molloy pointing a free for Donegal before O’Boyle was brought down for the penalty at the other end, Gilligan expertly finding the corner of the net.
Dermot Molloy was playing well for Donegal, converting five first half points and also on the end of two goal chances, the second of which he flashed first time just past the post in the final minute of the half after being put through by Patrick McBrearty.
Derry though also had their goal chances too in the opening half with Gilligan putting John McCamley clear on 16 minutes but he was way off target with just the ‘keeper to beat.
Derry were sharper in the second half, hitting four points in 13 minutes to go two ahead and they always kept their noses in front after that. Gilligan and O’Kane were again on the scoreboard while Eoghan Brown also chipped in with a good score.
Apart from Gilligan and O’Kane, Dermot McBride, Chrissy McKaigue and Cailean O’Boyle showed up well for the winners.
Patrick McBrearty had Donegal’s first point of the half on 53 minutes but substitute Emmet McGuckin and Gilligan had late points for the winners.
“We spoke at half-time, as did a number of the senior players and the message was to keep our shape. When we got the ball in the first half under pressure we had no options and were losing the ball in the tackle, they had to hold on to it because our wing half backs and wing half-forwards were not showing,” continued Brennan.
“Thankfully we got that sorted out at half-time and played much better in the second half and the scores came more easily.
“We have a lot of new fellas in, a new group of young players, particularly in defence and they are a credit to themselves. Their application is first class and are doing what they are being asked to do.
“We have used 32 players so far in the McKenna Cup. We used a young fella there tonight, Colm Scullion, and he was the last player we had that hadn’t got a game until tonight.
“Unfortunately, we picked up a few injuries along the way. Sean Leo McGoldrick was playing and he possibly shouldn’t have, he suffered concussion two weeks ago but he wanted to play.
“Mark Lynch shouldn’t have been playing but he wanted to play. What do you do when fellas want to play but let them, but it’s a 20-man game and we used all our subs and it worked out for us.
“James Conway returned as well after a year out. He is a big presence and I think Donegal gave him more respect than the young fella he replaced.”
Donegal: M Mullin; T McKinley, J Bonner, F McGlynn; A Thompson (0-1), C Classon, D Walsh; R Kavanagh, R Bradley; D Walsh, D McLaughlin, M O’Reilly; P McBrearty (0-2), D Molloy, (0-6,4f) C McManus. Subs., N McGee for Bonner ht; G McFadden for McManus 41mins; P McGrath for McLaughlin 47mins.
Derry: D Devlin; B McCallion, P McGlade, C Murray; C McKaigue, D McBride, SL McGoldrick; J McCamley, M Bateson; B McGoldrick, M Lynch, G O’Kane (0-3); E Brown (0-1), C O’Boyle, C Gilligan (1-3, pen,2f). Subs. J Conway for Bateson 38mins; E McGuckin (0-1) for Lynch 47mins; R Dillon for C Murray 56mins; E Lynn for McGoldrick 69mins; N Forrester for Gilligan 70mins.
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)