Derry’s last game before their Ulster championship clash with Tyrone next Saturday at Healy Park ended on a losing note at Banagher on Sunday afternoon.
Kildare full-forward David Harney had the ball in the Derry net after f15 seconds and, although Cathal McKeever responded within a minute, the signs were already ominous for an understrength Oak Leaf side.
Derry did pick off three unanswered points by the 5th minute but Martin Fitzgerald flashed a low shot across the keeper to the corner of the net two minutes later and Tony Murphy held off the challenge of Leigh Hawkins in the 15th minute to put the Lily Whites 3-1 to 1-6 ahead, Derry struggling to contain a Kildare side that was starting to dominate in all the key areas.
Without the suspended Kevin Hinphey and Ruairi Convery, and the injured quartet of Anton Rafferty, Paddy Kelly, Paddy Henry and Paddy McCloskey Derry’s resources were stretched to the limit, full-back Conor Quinn short of match fitness after several weeks out with hamstring trouble.
Kildare manager Willie Sunderland conceded that Derry face an uphill task after his side got off to a fantastic start.
“Goals definitely win games and that was shown out there today,” admitted Sunderland.
“We got them at the right times. The one after half time was a vital goal as it put us eight points clear. We didn’t concede any goals in the second half and that was most important.”
Derry had had first use of the stiff breeze in the opening half but lacked a cutting edge in attack against a physically strong Kildare defence in which Fiachra O Muineachain and Richie Hoban excelled in the centre.
Points from a Michael Kirkpatrick free, Oisin McCloskey and Oisin Doherty between the 22nd and 26th minutes cut the Kildare lead to 3-04 to 1-09 but the visitors responded with points from Conor Kenny, Leo Quinn, a Fitzgerald free and Kenny to take a 3-08 to 1-09 to half time.
Derry manager Ger Rogan was philosophical about the defeat, although he did bemoan the goals Derry conceded. Indeed Derry’s second half task, five points adrift on the restart, became akin to climbing the north face of the Eiger, when Martin Fitzgerald scored the fourth goal a couple minutes into the second period!
“I’m not going to make excuses about injuries and suspensions,” claimed Rogan, “Our mettle has been tested in every game but I am disappointed. You have to take it on the chin. We conceded some soft goals, three in the first half and then one after half time.
“Conor Quinn was only back after several weeks out injured. So he is struggling with fitness at the minute. Then you had Anton Rafferty, Paddy Kelly, Paddy McCloskey, Paddy Henry, Kevin Hinphey and Ruairi Convery all absent.
“The sequence of games in this competition was very unfair to all the teams, but particularly to us with such a young squad. To sustain the intensity required over that period was very, very difficult. So disappointed as I am, I am still very proud of the players.”
When asked if the players will learn from the errors that led to goals he remarked, “To be fair we had to revamp the team and it is much, much easier playing on a settled side. Conor Quinn came back into the side, Ruairi McCloskey dropped back to corner-back. There was an imbalance there all the time, with players switching back and forward.
“The goals were soft but sometimes in games those things happen and you don’t conceded anything but unfortunately for us we conceded three goals in the first half. It’s something that I have to work on and try and correct but I think the players have the ability to take on board what I have to shown them and to learn from where they went wrong. So from that point of view I have no fears.”
Derry plugged away to the final whistle but, of the points that Michael Kirkpatrick (6) and Oisin McCloskey (4) scored, all but one came from placed balls.
The Kildare manager summed up the game succinctly.
“We got off to a great start with a goal in the opening minute. We kept the foot on the gas all the time and at the end of the day it was a little easier that I thought it would have been,” he added.
Derry: Darrell McDermott; Ruairi McCloskey, Conor Quinn, Leigh Hawkins; Darragh McCloskey, Cormac McKenna, Sean Cassidy; Cathal McKeever (1-1), Ciaran Mackle; Alan Grant, Oisin McCloskey (0-6, 3f, 1 ‘65), Mark Craig; Oisin Doherty (0-1), Michael Kirkpatrick (0-6, 5f), Brendan Quigley (0-1). Subs: Liam Hinphey for Conor Quinn, 38 mins; Neil Magill for Cathal McKeever, 47 mins; Tom McElwee for Oisin Doherty, 55 mins; Conor Quinn for Ruairi McCloskey, 63 mins.
Kildare: Robbie Connolly; John Doran, Fiachra O Muinachain, Niall O Muineachain; Jonathan Byrne, Richie Hoban, Tom Byrne (0-1); Kieran Divilly, Billy White; Conor Kenny (0-3), Mark Moloney (0-1), Leo Quinn (0-4); Tony Murphy (1-2), David Harney (1-0), Martin Fitzgerald (2-5, 4f). Subs: David Kennedy (0-2) for Billy White, 22mins; Paul Fitzgerald for David Kennedy 68 mins; Donal Moloney for Tom Byrne, 68 mins; Paudie Reidy for Jonathan Byrne, 68 mins
Referee: Garrett Duffy (Antrim)