For certain Derry should have put a lacklustre Kerry 15 the sword at Celtic Park in their final league of the season.
Seamus Mullan was at Celtic Park
Photographs: Margaret McLaughlin
A five point win does not show just how dominant Derry were in a game that was pretty close for long periods, but only because Derry spurned a catalogue of chances and gifted the Kingdom the softest of goals in the first half.
Over the 74 minutes, Derry spurned three gilt-edged goal chances inside the ‘small parallelogram’, Paddy Henry twice missing out, Shane Farren once, had a Ruairi Convery penalty deflected away for a fruitless ‘65’ and shot 17 wides!
However manager Ger Rogan was still upbeat after the victory which secured Derry’s place in Division 2A.
“I’d have been more concerned had we not created all those scoring opportunities,” explained the Antrim man, “So from that viewpoint I’m delighted as it gives us something to work on. It shows the players have grown and developed into this league. To play Kerry and miss so many chances and give them a goal, we’re very, very happy.
“I doubt if anybody in the country fancied us to stay up. Indeed most fancied us for relegation. We finished third in that league and that was a tremendous achievement. All credit to the players. I think they have been outstanding.”
For much of the first half Derry were vastly superior to Kerry but their dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard as they shot ten wides in the opening 30 minutes.
Kerry were very poor in that period, their attack snuffed out by the dominance of Paddy Kelly and Conor Quinn in central defence. Up front Kevin Hinphey and Ruairi Convery were in top form, contributing two points each as Derry took a 0-09 to 1-2 lead to the break.
The Kerry goal came in the 23rd minute when keeper Oisin O’Doherty failed to control a low shot from Gary O’Brien and James Flaherty nipped into fire to the net for 0-5 to 1-2.
Derry should have had a goal in the final minute of the half when Alan Grant crossed from the right but Paddy Henry failed to connect with in front of the posts.
In the second half Derry controlled the play but missed chance after chance, including that 55th minute Convery penalty but they ran out convincing winners, even though Darragh O’Connell sparked a mini-revival with four points that cut the lead to two points ten minutes from time, 0-10 to 1-5.
Paddy Kelly scored two superb points from frees to quell the comeback, Kevin Hinphey scoring four second half points in a deserved win.
“Sometimes you get to the stage in a game when you get frustrated,” remarked Rogan, “The heads can drop when you’re not getting scores that were there to take but they came back and dug in. It seemed that no matter the number of chances that we wasted the players just came back again. Paddy took a great score from 80 or 90 yards out and it lifted us at just the right time. It was a great score. We were on a bit of a dip at that stage.”
In added time Shane Farren was shown a red card for a careless challenge which Rogan is hoping to authorities look upon leniently.
“He should have had the free in the first place. Sheer frustration! He threw the arm back and by the letter of the law the referee got it right. I thought it might not have been a red card, maybe a second yellow for it was careless rather than intentional. I’m hoping that it won’t be too severe.”
When it was suggested that the win over Kerry would be a boost for Derry ahead of their Christy Ring game with Kildare Rogan responded, “There’s no doubt about that. We have a saying at home, ’leagues are for playing in but championships are for winning’.
“Now this is hurling time and we’re looking forward to that. We now look forward to Kildare who are flying. But that’s where you want to be. The players have had to test themselves at a higher level this year and I think they have acquitted themselves very well.
“I thought that we were outstanding in defence in both halves. In the forward line we played some lovely hurling, we created lots of scoring chances but we just did not punish them. That is something that we have to learn to do, that when we have a team on the rack, we have to put them away.”
Derry scorers: Kevin Hinphey 0-04, Ruairi Convery 0-03, Paddy Henry 0-02, 0-01 ‘65’, 0-01 free. Paddy Kelly 0-02 frees, Charles Gilmore, Shane Farren, Liam Craig, Alan Grant 0-01 each
Kerry scorers: Darragh O’Connell 0-05, 0-02 frees, James Flaherty 1-00 and Pa Joe Connolly 0-01
Derry: Oisin O’Doherty; Ruairi McCloskey, Conor Quinn, Leigh Hawkins; Michael Warnock, Paddy Kelly, ; Oisin McCloskey, Charles Gilmore; Liam Craig, Ruairi Convery, Kevin Hinphey; Paddy Henry, Brendan Quigley, Alan Grant. (Subs) Paddy McCloskey for B Quigley 40 mins; Shane Farren for P Henry 50 mins; Sean McNicholl for L Craig 69 mins
Kerry: P. J. O’ Gorman; James O’Connor, Tom Murnane, Tory Horgan; Kike Lynch, Jason Casey, Ally O’Connor; Diarmuid Walsh, Anthony Fahy; Colm Harty, Gary O’Brien, Darragh O’Connell; James Flaherty, Aidan Boyle, Pa Joe Connolly. (Subs) Sean Nolan for C Harty 33 mins; Brian Murphy for G O’Brien H-T; Brendan Brenna for D Walsh H-T; John Fitzgerad for A O’Connor 50 mins; Darren Wallace for PJ Connolly 57 mins.
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)