Derry will meet Wicklow in the next round of the Christy Ring Cup - the fifth time the two sides will clash over the last two seasons - after Saturday’s one point win over Kildare.
On another day Kildare could have gone away from Celtic Park with a victory but the truth was Derry did just enough to carry them through though there was precious little between the teams. That free count which caused so much consternation was probably the difference between the teams, especially when the Oak Leafers possessed a player like Lavey’s Paddy Henry. Eleven frees struck, 11 points scored. That wins games and it did so on Saturday even if Sunderland was right to feel aggrieved by one or two soft awards.
Things had started well for the Lilywhites with a goal inside 60 seconds, Danny Butler doing well to pick out Martin Fitzgerald who touched it over Derry keeper Oisin Doherty for Moloney to find the net although corner-back Ruairi McCloskey may have helped it home in an effort to clear off the line. It didn’t matter, the result was the same and Kildare were off to a flyer.
Alan Grant responded with a point for the home side but it was Kildare making all the running and in particular the elusive Moloney who was giving Liam Hinphey the run around in Kildare’s half-forward line. In fact, had Kildare kept their goal in tact for any significant period of time the pattern of this game may have been set to a very different tempo but this is not the same Derry team the Lilywhites brushed aside so easily 12 months ago in Banagher and inside five minutes the game was level thanks to a Kevin Hinphey goal.
Derry most potent tactic - the long ball into full-forward Ruairi Convery - had already been flagged as dangerous but the warnings weren’t heeded and when the big No. 14 broke the latest high ball down, the ensuing skirmish saw possession land perfectly at the feet of Hinphey who kicked under Dermody for 1-1 a-piece with only five minutes played.
The tempo was set and the teams continued to go tit-for-tat for the remainder of the half. The impressive Divilly, who finished with 1-5, put the visitors ahead again only for Henry to ominously register his first free of the day. Moloney claimed his first score to put his side ahead again but once more Derry responded, Liam Hinphey hitting a fantastic 65m score from play.
Moloney and Tony Murphy this time opened up a two-point gap for Sunderland’s men but once more they were pegged back, Derry’s ability to take scores from distance, coupled with the considerable threat of Convery meaning the visitors were finding it difficult to translate their early superiority onto the scoreboard and by the 21st minute it was Kildare who will have felt hard done by the 1-06 to 1-06 score.
Derry however were coming into the game and should have moved four points clear when they were awarded a penalty for Fiachra O Muineachain’s foul on Convery after a move which eventually ended with the ball in the net but referee Duffy had already blown his whistle. Up stepped wing-back Paddy Kelly but, not the the last time in the game, Dermody was equal to the shot and it remained Derry ahead by one at 1-07 to 1-06.
By now Kelly had been switched to pick up Moloney and with their noses marginally in front, Derry would never relinquish the lead, Henry the main architect of a half-time scoreline of 1-11 to 1-09 which was harsh on Kildare efforts.
The second half period Derry more dominant but Kildare’s cause was not helped by Moloney dropping into a deeper midfield role which too often took him out of the areas from which he had caused Derry trouble during the opening 35 minutes. Indeed, inside 14 minutes of the restart three more Henry frees, a sixty-five from Kelly and a point from Charles Gilmore had Derry six to the good at 1-16 to 1-10 and it looked like Kildare were running out of steam.
Divilly and Henry traded frees but that gap was looking more terminal the longer the game went on. However an injury to influential full-back Conor Quinn earlier in the half had left the home defence looking less secure and Kildare took full advantage with their second goal on the hour mark. Substitute David Harney started the move when he picked out Fitzgerald who showed superb awareness to find Divilly. The full-forward coolly steeped inside two Derry defenders to fire home a lifeline that brought the game back to 2-12 against 1-17 with ten minutes to play.
The next score was always going to be vital and just when they needed it, Kildare’s composure let them down. Fiachra O Muineachain’s sloppy pass out from the back presented possession to Derry’s Sean McGuigan who he then fouled allowing that man Henry to make it a three point game at 1-18 to 2-12, a lead Henry stretched from another free only seconds later.
Substitute Johnny Enright and Kevin Hinphey swapped scores to make it 1-20 to 2-13 before Henry was presented with yet another free for a pull with no Kildare man near him. He accepted the gift but Conor Kenny and another substitute Leo Quinn ensured Kildare stayed in touch at 1-21 to 2-15.
Henry’s only point from play would be Derry’s final score of the game and Ger Rogan must have breathed a sigh of relief after it was initially signalled wide before the referee consulted his umpires and decided it did dissect the posts after all. That proved the crucial decision as scores from Kenny, Enright and Divilly ensure a grandstand finish which very nearly became a fairytale one. It was deep into stoppage time when Fitzgerald lined up his shot from around the 40m line. It drifted metres wide and with it went Kildare’s chance.
Derry: Oisin Doherty; Ruairi McCloskey, Conor Quinn, Leigh Hawkins; Paddy Kelly (0-3, 2f, 1 sixty-five), Liam Hinphey (0-1), Michael Warnock; Charles Gilmore (0-1), Sean McGuigan (0-2); Kevin Hinphey (1-1), Oisin McCloskey (0-1), Paddy McCloskey; Paddy Henry (0-12, 11f), Ruairi Convery, Alan Grant (0-1). (Subs) Sean McNicholl for C Quinn (inj), 43mins;
Kildare: Paul Dermody; Paudie Reidy, Fiachra O Muineachain, John Doran; Patrick Curtin, Richie Hoban (0-1, 1 sixty-five), Niall O Muineachain; Danny Butler (0-1), Gavin Tynan; Conor Kenny (0-2), Mark Moloney (1-4), Tony Murphy (0-1); Gerry Keegan, Paul Divilly (1-5, 3f), Martin Fitzgerald. (Subs) Kieran Divilly for G Tynan, 30mins; David Harney (0-1) for K Divilly, 43mins; Johnny Enright (0-2) for D Butler, 52mins; Liam Criag for A Grant, 59mins; Leo Quinn (0-1) for G Keegan;
Referee: Garrett Duffy (Antrim)