DERRY GAA: Oak Leafers relegated after defeat in Sligo
Allianz National League Division Three
Sligo 3-11, Derry 2-12
Derry will be playing Division Four football next season after a miserable league campaign ended in defeat to Sligo in Markievicz Park, a result that sends the Oak Leafers down after Offaly's victory in Westmeath.
Derry had control on several occasions in Sligo but the defensive deficiencies which have haunted them all season reappeared at just the wrong time.
Derry made one change from last week's victory over Wexford with Michael Bateson coming in to replace Ruairi Mooney but it was the home side who started with greater purpose.
The stakes were evident with two wayward free being registered, one a-piece, before Sligo's Adrian Marren got the scores moving with a free on five minutes.
Derrry were rotating their runners, seeking to break Sligo's defensive lines with a clever run from out to in. The tactic almost paid dividends on eight minutes. A patient Oak Leaf build up saw play switched left to right as the visitors probed for an opening. Bradley spotted his chance and when he sped in behind, Padraig Cassidy picked him out brilliantly with a lovely through ball. Clean through the goal was on but Bradley's fierce shot rose inches too high to clear the Sligo crossbar.
It was a warning for the home team and Derry would create two more decent goal chances before finding eventually finding the Sligo net.
If there was an issue for McErlain's men, it came from the ease with which Sligo were winning their own kick-outs. It gave the home side a decent platform to launch thier attacks as another Marren free gave them a 0-2 to 0-1 lead on 12 minutes.
Derry passed up another goal chance on 16 minutes, albeit a more difficult opportunity than Bradley's. Padraig McGrogan was the creator this time, finding Enda Lynn inside with a lovely ball. The angle was tight but the Green lough man got his shot away only for Sligo keeper Aidan Devaney to turn it aside.
A the while, the side were going tit-for-tat on the points, Liam Gaughan and Bradley swapping frees before Derry did find a path to the back of the Sligo net.
It was another flowing move byu the Oak Leafers, the ball being moved through the hands at pace until, Niall Toner fed the ball in to substitute Shane McGuigan, on for the injured Benny Heron. McGuigan looked up to lay off a perfect ball into the path of Conor McAtamney's superb run. It took him clear and after hitting six points last week against Wexford, the big Swatragh midfielder had all the confidence in the world to stride forward and fire a superb finsih into the roof of the net for a 1-02 to 0-3 lead.
It signalled a period of Derry dominance, Lynch and Bradley adding frees but Sligo duo Patrick O'Connor and Niall Murphy hit late points to ensure it was in the melting pot as the sides turned around at 0-5 to 1-04.
That scoring pattern continued into the second half as O'Connor's early point was cancelled out almost immediately by a Lynch score that owed everything to great fielding by McAtamney.
Derry seemed content enough but they were allowing Sligo to seize the initiative and they did so in style with a burst of 1-02 capped by a lovely left footed goal from Liam Gaughan who shot across Ben McKinless for a 1-08 to 1-05 lead.
If Sligo expected Derry to wilt at this point there were no signs of nerves as the Oak Leafers hit three successive scores, two beautiful points from from Niall Toner and Shane McGuigan before a Mark Lynch free levelled less than five minutes after Sligo's goal.
Gaughan and Michael Bateson swapped points but with news filtering through Offally's control in Mullingar, any side going to stay up knew they would have to do it themselves and Derry made the first move.
Substitute Jack Doherty madw a great driving run through the centre of the pitch, swapped passes with Bradley and then released Shane CMGuigan and shot across Devaney and into the far corner fo the Sligo net. With Lynch tagging on a point Derry looked in control.
They were anything but and the disjointed defending on display against Wexford reappeared at exactly the wrong time for the Oak Leafers.
Four points up, the ugly word game-management was what was needed but within seconds, Sligo centre-half back Kevin McDonnell was walking through a non-existent Derry defence to bundled a shot under McKinless for 2-09 to 2-10.
An Emmett Bradley free, looked to have settled Oak nerves but within seconds, a move down the Sligo right ended with O'Connor unleashing an unstoppable 20 yard shot into the top corner of the Derry net for 3-09 to 2-11.
Marren added a free and Derry were in terrible trouble. Carlus McWilliams hit a point to bring it back to a point but when Sligo substitute Sean Carribine, fisted over the game's next score, Derry were down and looking at Division Four football next season.
Sligo: Aidan Devaney (0-1, 1f); Ross Donavan, Luke Nicholson, Charles Harrison; Cian Breheny, Kevin McDonnell (1-0), Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch; Aidan McIntyre, Niall Murphy (0-2); Neill Ewing, Patrick O'Connor (1-2, 1f), Liam Gaughan (1-2, 2f); Kyle Cawley, Pat Hughes, Adrian Marren (0-3, 3f).
(Subs) Eoin McHugh for L Nicholson, 34mins; Sean Carrabine (0-1) for P Hughes, 48mins;
Yellow Cards: C Breheny, 30mins; A Marren, 48mins; O'Kelly-Lynch, 59mins; P O'Connor 62mins; R Donovan, 74mins;
Derry: Ben McKinless, Michael Bateson (0-1), Kevin Johnston, Conor McCluskey; Karl McKaigue, Carlus McWilliams, Peter Hagan; Conor McAtamney (1-1), Emmett Bradley (0-4, 3f); Enda Lynn, Benny Heron, Padraig Cassidy; Padraig McGrogan, Mark Lynch (0-3, 2f), Niall Toner (0-1).
(Subs) Shane McGuigan (1-1) for B Heron (inj), 15mins; Jack Doherty for E Lynn, 44mins; James Kielt for N Toner, 65mins; Liam CMGioldrick for M Bateson, 66mins;
Yellow Cards: C McAtmaney, 37mins;
Black Cards: Emmet Bradley (replaced by Terence O'Brien) 66mins.
Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)