Unlucky ‘13’ proves false start for Derry

City of Derry's Adam Bratton is swamped by Galwegian's at Judges Road. (0312SL23)
City of Derry's Adam Bratton is swamped by Galwegian's at Judges Road. (0312SL23)

A THIRTEEN point lead with 13 minutes on the clock! The omens never looked good despite a promising start against Galwegians though luck had little to do with this AIL Division 2A defeat for City of Derry.

Michael Wilson was at Judges Road

Photographs: stephen Latimer

The aforementioned start should have been the platform for victory but crucial errors littered a performance which must have had Head Coach Mark Nicholl scratching his head in frustration. Knock-ons, misplaced passing and - most critical of all - poor decision making never permitted Derry to build any momentum against a compact and physical Galwegians back-line who constantly held Derry runners up and turned over ball. In full-back John ‘Luigi’ Cleary, the Connacht men had the match winner, his deep piercing runs timed perfectly to punch holes in Derry defensive lines which had initially stood up well to the test.

Far too much of the game - even when Derry led - was played inside the home half. Galwegians had a degree of control throughout and Derry only have themselves to blame. The Judges Road men did put themselves in decent positions as they chased the game but not enough players were singing from the same hymn sheet and Galwegians, even with two men yellow carded in the second half, were clinical enough to punish them. The second half loss of Richard McCarter did not help but Nicholl cannot have been happy with how easily his side folded.

It was a far cry from how the game had started. Two minutes, 29 seconds were on the clock when Chris Barber opened the scoring with a try that owed everything to Peter Henderson. Derry had turned over possession inside their own ‘22 but, as would become the norm for the remainder of the game, a misplaced pass looked to have put them in trouble. That was until Henderson gathered the loose ball and slalomed his way through four tackles to accelerate into space. Now in the Galwegians half, Henderson drew the last line of defence before releasing the supporting Barber who ran in for an excellent try.

Derry’s recent kicking woes continued though as Henderson missed the conversion and, including a first half penalty, Derry squandered seven potential first half points from unsuccessful kicks which must be a worry.

Henderson did convert a seventh minute penalty for a deliberate knock-one which could have brought a yellow card to Galwegians’ Brian McClearn who was dominating line-outs but much of the play remained inside the Derry half. However, another fantastic break, this time from Adam Bratton, set up good position deep inside the visitors’ 22. Derry worked the scrum well, switching play left where McCarter - with men over - was able to get over the line and score for 13-0. Again the conversion was missed.

Galwegians should’ve scored on 16 minutes when, with two men outside, influential out-half Tadgh Leader inexplicably decided to kick on and allow William McCleery to make a superb saving tackle in the chase but they didn’t have to wait long to score.

Leader’s 24th minute penalty was followed by a missed 22m effort from Henderson and Galwegians eventually made their pressure tell five minutes before the break when hooker Conor Muldoon crashed over for an unconverted score.

They would have scored again two minutes into injury time had Andrew Semple not deliberately stopped Leader from getting his pass away only yards from the line. It was an offence which cost the Derry scrum-half a yellow card and his team three points after the Galwegians No. 10 converted the subsequent penalty but even with the visitors dominance, Derry still led 13-11 at the break.

But that was as good as it got for the home team with few bright spots in a dismal second half. Three minutes in, a Bratton knock-on in midfield paved the way for Cleary to break the Derry defensive lines and pick out winger Colin Conroy for an easy try and a 16-13 lead. Despite playmaker Leader being yellow carded on 49 minutes, Galwegians were able to extend their lead when Conroy again got on the end of a flowing move to take the final pass from Conor Muldoon and score in the corner.

At 21-13 there was still plenty of time to make amends but Derry never looked likely, even when visiting flanker Ivan Muldoon was yellow carded with ten minutes remaining and Head Coach Nicholl will be looking for a major improvement his weekend when his team travel to Cashel for the last AIL fixture before Christmas.

City of Derry - Chris Shields, Cathal Cregan, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Brian Prue, Adam Bratton, Tom Patton, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, David Graham, Ryan Campbell, Chris Barber, William McCleery, Peter Henderson. (Replacements) Sam McAuley, Paul McFeely, Steven Jefferson, Richard Baird, Richard Peoples.

Galwegians - Jarlath Naughton, Conor Muldoon, Jason East, Anthony Ryan, Brian McClearn, Ross Fitzgerald, Ivan Muldoon, Eoin Rooney, Conor O’Rourke, Tadgh Leader, Barry Lee, David Clarke, Brian Murphy, Colin Conroy, John Cleary. (Replacements) Ronan Burke, Matthew Dever, Kris O’Shea, Edward Earls, Paul Griffin.

Referee - Kevin Beggs (IRFU)