Allianz National Hurling League Division 2B
Derry 0-10, Mayo 0-13
Derry hurlers fell to a third successive Division 2B defeat after league leader Mayo fought back from a six point half-time deficit to snatch a three point victory in Celtic Park on Sunday.
Collie McGurk's men managed only one second half point and while always in the game, a failure to take full advantage of a dominant first 35 minutes ultimately cost them the win.
After a mauling by Donegal in their last match, Derry fans will not have approached the visit of the Division 2B leaders with any real optimism but the Oak Leafers banished any pessimism with a superb start that kept Mayo scoreless for the first 24 minutes.
By that stage Collie McGurk's men were six points to the good with the only regret being they weren't further ahead after a dominant display. McGurk was able to welcome Cormac McKenna back from county champions, Slaughtneil and the home defence was excellent in front of the impressive Michael Kirkpatrick in between the Derry posts.
The Emmet's player provided an excellent shield in front of a Derry defence that tackled with great intensity, giving the Mayo front line precious little to work with.
The home side led 0-9 to 0-3 by the interval but with many of Derry's seven first half wides from eminently scoreabvle positions, there was that lingering fear that missed chances could come back to haunt them.
The Celtic Park pitch was in decent condition considering the amount of snow and rain over recent days but it still made for heavy underfoot conditions and the teams initially struggled to find any rhythm.
One they settled through, Derry went through the gears with the determination of a team set on illustrating their opening two defeats did not adequately reflect the potential of a young Oak Leaf side.
Alan Grant and Paul Cleary were in fine form and it was the former who opened the scoring two minutes in and doubling his tally from a free four minutes later.
Oisin McCloskey hooked a lovely score on nine minutes before Cleary opened his account to make it 0-4 to no score on 12 minutes.
Kirkpatrick then stepped out from the Derry goal to send over an outrageous free from his OWN 45m line, a brilliant score which was added to by another McCloskey point before Keith Higgins finally opened the visitors account.
Darragh Cartin (free), Niall Smyth and Grant again had further scores with Shane Boland twice, once from a free, replaying for Mayo but Derry were well worth their six point interval advantage.
After their bright opening to the first half, Derry could have had a dream start to the second when Cleary's defence splitting run set up Cartin for a great goal chance but the Banagher player's shot was smothered by Mayo keeper Donal O'Brien.
Oisin McCloskey did get the opening score of the second half but from there the visitors began to take control, Cathal Freeman, Boland (free) and substitute Kenny Freeman bringing it back to 0-10 to 0-7 with 15 minutes to go.
Derry still had only that solitary McCloskey point in the second period and were becoming more entrenched inside their own '45' as the half progressed.
Further points from Sean Regan and Keith Higgins (free) brought Derry lead back to the minimum and when Higgins sent over a lovely score from the right Mayo were level.
A short puck out gone wrong gave Kenny Feeny the chance to put Mayo in front for the first time in the match seconds later and the same player then increased the Mayo lead to two points.
A red card for Lavey's Liam Murphy for careless use of the hurl on Mayo's Conor Daly did nothing to help the home cause with Higgins' causing all sorts of bother as the spaces began to open up. his point took the visitors lead to three and left Derry needing a goal as the clock ticked into injury time.
It never came. Derry's performance was a marked improvement on the Donegal display and provides something tangible to build on but one second half point won't win many matches.
Derry: Michael Kirkpatrick (0-1, 1f), Seamus Higgins, Darragh McCloskey, Eoin Gilmore; Naoise Waldron, Cormac McKenna, Ciaran Steele; Jack Phelan, Paul Cleary (0-2); Breandan Quigley, Alan Grant (0-3, 1f), Niall Smyth (0-1); Darragh Cartin (0-1, 1f), Oisin McCloskey (0-2), Liam Murphy.
(Subs) Odhran McKeever for B Quigley, 31mins; Aodhan O'Donnell for N Smyth, 52mins; Breandan Quigley for O McKeever, 62mins;
Yellow Card: L Murphy, 24mins;
Red Card: L Murphy, 68mins;
Mayo: Donal O'Brien; Adrian Brennan, Conor Daly, Brian Hunt; Michael Morley, David Kenny, John Cotter; Kieran McDermott, Cathal Freeman (0-1); Sean Regan (0-1), Darren McTigue, Patrick Kiely; Shane Boland (0-3, 2f), Keith Higgins (0-4, 1f), Sean Kenny.
(Subs) Corey Scahill for K Higgins (Blood sub), 17mins - reversed 21mins; Kenny Feeney (0-4, 1f) for D McTigue, H/T; Corey Scahill for S Kenny, H/T; Conor Henry for J Cotter, 44mins; Daniel Huane for K McDermott, 60mins;
Referee: Aidan Ferguson (Fermanagh)