DERRY GAA: Oak Leafers to meet Monaghan in McKenna Cup semi-final

Derry's Niall Loughlin.

Derry's Niall Loughlin.

Derry 2-20, Queen’s University 0-06

Derry will meet Monaghan in the Dr. McKenna Cup semi-final after a facile 20-point victory over Queen’s proved enough for the Oak Leafers to top Section a after Armagh’s defeat of Down.

Derry manager Damian Barton and assistant Brian McGuckin (right).

(Photo Matt Mackey / Press Eye)

Derry manager Damian Barton and assistant Brian McGuckin (right). (Photo Matt Mackey / Press Eye)

Damian Barton’s team now travel to the Athletic Grounds on Sunday (2pm) for a match most thought they would never qualify for but Cavan’s surprise defeat to the Ulster University and Armagh victory over previous Section A leaders, Down meant the Oak Leafers won the group on score difference.

Yet it could all have been so different after a flood light failure at Owenbeg put Wednesday’s fixture in jeopardy.

The blackout arrived after only four minutes play with a Conor McGrady free the only action of note before the players were forced off and the match held up for the 37 minute delay which looked like getting the match called off.

Queen’s probably wished they lights had gone out permanently though because by the time the generators had got up to speed again so had Derry.

Even with both halves being reduced to 30 minutes, there was more than ample time for the Oak Leafers to hit 2-07 in the opening period despite also registering six wides.

McGrady was the University’s only scorer in the opening half and his point had them two in front before Derry clicked into gear with a Ryan Bell point after four minutes of actual game-play the signal for a one sided remainder to the half.

Four minutes later Mark Lynch superbly opened up the Queen’s defence with a brilliant through ball that sent Niall Loughlin clear. The Greenlough man could have gone for goal but instead, squared unselfishly for Enda Lynn to fist into an empty net.

Bell then set up points for both Lynn and Kielt before Loughlin hit a long range effort as Derry built a 1-4 to 0-02 lead with 14 minutes on the clock.

Despite employing Ruairi Wells as a sweeper, the students were offering little resistance to their hosts as Peter Hagan got himself on the end of a flowing Derry move to point.

It got worse for Queen’s on 23 minutes when Derry grabbed their second goal and it was Neil Forester who found the net with his first goal for his county, diving full length to fist Lynch’s centre into an unguarded net.

Bell and Lynch tagged on points before McGrady hit Queen’s first from play to send the sides in at 2-07 to 0-03 and with the second half merely a formality.

The second half was only about how many Derry would score and if it would be enough to qualify for the last four.

That score chase brought some much needed drama to a second 30 minutes that resembled little more than an Oak Leaf training session.

Score after score took Derry closer to the semi-final and they could even afford to see a Lynn penalty go over the bar for a point as the cut through the Queen’s back line at will.

As news filtered through of Cavan’s defeat to the Ulster University and Armagh’s defeat of Down, Derry’s tally 2-20 proved enough to set up a semi-final meeting with Monaghan in Armagh.

Derry: Conor McLarnon; Ciaran Mullan, Connor Nevin, Ronan Murphy; Neil Forester (1-0), Oisin Duffy, Michael Warnock; Conor McAtamney, Aidan McLaughlin; Enda Lynn (1-2, 1pen), James Kielt (0-4, 1f), Peter Hagan (0-1); Mark Lynch (0-3, 1f), Ryan Bell (0-5), Niall Loughlin (0-1). (Subs) Conor McGrogan for C Mullan (inj), 12mins; Carlus McWilliams (0-3) for P Hagan, H/T; Gavin O’Neill (0-1) for C McAtamney, 44mins; Jason Rocks for M Warnock, 48mins; Emmett McGuckin for M Lynch, 51mins; Patrick Kearney for N Loughlin, 52mins;

Queen’s University: Callum Mullan-Young; Niall Kennan, Jack Dowling, Connor Carville; Shea Heffron, Ruairi Wells, Conor Hoey; Anthony Doherty, Ryan Dougan; Aidan Fegan, Aaron Morgan, Barry McCann; Conor McGrady (0-4, 3f), Aaron McClements, Ciaran Harney. (Subs) Fergus Quinn for C Carville (blood sub) 21mins; Conor Francis for B McCann, H/T; James McMahon for A Doherty, H/T; Ciaran O’Hanlon (0-1) for C Harney; Ciaran McCartain for R Dougan, 47mins; Kristain Healy for A Fegan, 47mins; Sean Fox (0-1) for C McGrady 53mins;

Referee: James Lewis (Fermanagh)