Derry 3-15, Westmeath 0-12
Two superb goals - inside 60 stunning, third minute seconds - all but secured victory for Brian McIver’s impressive Derry side who are gathering momentum as they moved into second placed in the Division One table, one point behind leaders Cork.
Last season, the Division Two final between these sides had been a close, tense affair before Derry’s injury time scoring burst secured the title. This time the Oak Leafers hit Westmeath much earlier and Paul Bealin’s men had no response.
When John Heslin raised the white flag for the visitors inside the opening minute, there was nothing to suggest the game had little more than two minutes to run as a contest but by the time the clock hit its fourth minute, Derry were cruising and Westmeath shell-shocked.
It was Emmett McGuckin whose goal secured the Division Two title last season and the big Magherafelt man continued his superb start to the season in an impressive two man front line with Cailean O’Boyle which brought about the first goal on three minutes.
McGuckin had no right to wrestle possession off Westmeath’s Kieran Gavin but did so easily and found the supporting Benny Heron. Heron’s lofted pass may have been a shot on goal but it became the perfect invite for O’Boyle to attack at the back post, the Lavey forward beating Steven Gilmore to the ball before gathering and rounding Westmeath keeper Darren Quinn to score.
Before the visitors could regroup, Derry hit them again after Fergal Doherty broke the ball down from the subsequent kick-out. Possession was quickly moved through the hands of Sean Leo McGoldrick and James Kielt before landing at the feet of Heron who applied the most emphatic of left foot finishes for 2-0 to 0-1.
Incredibly Kevin Johnston could have had a third Derry goal on five minutes but the Dungiven man elected to take his point as the rampant Oak Leafers completely overwhelmed the opposition.
Johnston was finding space at will, McGoldrick was simply superb as he covered every inch of the Celtic Park pitch and Westmeath looked petrified of McGuckin and O’Boyle. With Mark Lynch and Doherty dominating the midfield the Derry backs were free to push forward and found space with remarkable ease. Westmeath may have been poor but Derry were clinical.
Lynch (2) and O’Boyle extended the Derry lead while how Steven Gilmore escaped a black card for hauling down O’Boyle as he went clear again on 21 minutes, only referee Michael Duffy knows. The fact Chrissy McKaigue escaped in similar fashion at the end of the opening half was probably only a coincidence.
Kielt and McGuckin tagged on further scores as Derry led 2-06 to 0-04 with 24 minutes gone and two minutes later Lynch sent another gilt edged goal chance wide with men over on either side waiting for an easy tap-in. By the time the half-time whistle sounded with Dungiven’s Johnston passing up Derry’s latest goal chance, Westmeath looked a beaten team.
The second half was exhibition stuff from the Oak Leafers. Outrageous scores and superb team play are easily dismissed against poor opposition but Derry made Westmeath look poor. If the opening minutes broke the visitors spirit, the remainder of the game simply emphasised Derry’s superiority.
The third goal arrived on 47 minutes with McGuckin and McGoldrick combining fittingly. Aidan McAlynn produced a great run down the right side but when held up, McGoldrick - as he always seems to be - was there in a supporting role to carry the attack further. The Eoghan Rua man accelerated past his marker toward the Westmeath line before squaring for McGuckin to punch into the net.
All that was left was to discover the margin of victory. The game was never in doubt but probably the biggest cheer of the day came deep in stoppage time when the outstanding McGoldrick brought the ball forward before sending over an excellent finish off his left foot. It capped a fine individual and brilliant team performance.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Mark Craig, Chrissy McKaigue, Dermot Bride; Kevin Johnston (0-1), Aidan McAlynn, Sean Leo McGoldrick (0-1); Fergal Doherty, Mark Lynch (0-6, 4f); Ciaran McFaul (0-2), James Kielt (0-2, 1f), Enda Lynn (0-2); Benny Heron (1-0), Emmett McGuckin (1-1), Cailean O’Boyle (1-1). (Subs) Patsy Bradley for F Doherty, 48mins; Niall Holly for J Kielt, 54mins; Charlie Kielt for K Johnston, 54mins; Aaron Kerrigan for E Lynn, 60mins; Oisin Duffy for C McKaigue, 63mins; Carlus McWilliams for A McAlynn, 63mins;
Westmeath: Stephen Gallagher; Steven Gilmour, Kevin Gavin, Kevin Maguire; James Dolan (0-1), John Gilligan, John Egan; David Duffy, Paul Sharry; John Heslin (0-7, 6f), Ger Egan (0-2), Kieran Martin (0-1); Callum McCormack, Ray Connellan, Dessie Dolan (0-1). (Subs) Jamie Gonoud for J Egan, 36mins; Shane Flynn for P Sharry, 46mins; David McCormack for R Connellan, 44mins; Gavin Hoey for Callum McCormack, 55mins; Denis Corroon for K Martin, 55mins.
Michael Duffy (Sligo).