Derry 1-08, Wicklow 0-12
After a sporting weekend dominated by scoring difference, no calculators were needed at Owenbeg as Derry hurlers missed out on the Division 2A final following a surprise home defeat to relegated Wicklow.
The one point victory was the visitors’ first win in the league this season and ensured Westmeath and Kerry went forward as league finalists following victories over Carlow and London respectively. In truth the Kingdom’s comfortable 10-point win over the ‘Exiles’ meant Derry would have needed to defeat Wicklow by 13 points to qualify and that was never on the cards in a disjointed and disappointing 70-minutes display.
Despite having nothing to play for, it was Wicklow who looked the more hungry throughout as Derry struggled to find their range, even after Aaron Kelly had given them the perfect start with a point after 21 seconds.
What followed for the rest of the opening 35 minutes was very forgettable as Wicklow’s Andy O’Brien tormented the Derry back line. The Garden County had raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the 12th minute after O’Brien registered one ‘65’ and two more frees, either side of a lovely score from Eugene Dunne.
By contrast Derry seemed lethargic and were making few inroads. Ruairi Convery did reduce the deficit to two points with his first free of the day but the even the normally reliable Swatragh man looked out of sorts from the placed ball.
Anto Byrne and O’Brien with two - one a lovely hooked effort over the shoulder - had Wicklow 0-7 to 0-2 ahead as the clocked ticked toward the interval and they should have been further ahead.
Kevin Hinphey grabbed a superb long range free from Derry but their fortunes appeared to be changing when the Oak Leaf’s Na Magha trio engineered a superb goal right on half-time.
Alan Grant did well to win the primary possession before picking out the well-timed run of Breandan Quigley who broke through two tackles and spotted club mate Brendan Douban in space on the right. Quigley’s hand pass was perfect for Douban to collect, steady himself and fire a brilliant low finish across Wicklow keeper Wayne O’Gorman and into the net to bring Derry right back into the game at 1-3 to 0-7.
The Oak Leafers emerged in more determined fashion for the second half but were guilty of missing some gilt edged chances in a frustrating second 35 minutes. Paddy MCCloskey and Sean McGuigan were introduced at the break but Wicklow refused to lie down.
Convery’s early free was cancelled out by Wicklow substitute Christy Moore before Derry finally managed to get themselves in front thanks to three frees from Convery, which left it 1-7 to 0-8.
But that was as good as it got for Derry. The lead lasted all of two minutes as Wicklow fought back to level thanks to Eamonn Kearns’ fantastic point and yet another O’Brien free.
It was now about winning game with any thoughts of score difference long since banished from Oak Leaf minds but Wicklow had held the upper hand for most fo the game and were not to be denied. Sean McCullagh was penalised for lifting off the ground which gave O’Brien the chance to put Wicklow back into the lead before the same player produced an outrageous free from wide on the sideline close to half-way.
Convery’s last free looked like it might set up a grandstand finish before Liam Hinphey picked up a straight red card in an injury time fracas that also saw Wicklow keeper O’Gorman receive a second yellow.
It was all academic at that stage but capped a disappointing end to what has been a very promising league campaign for Tom McLean’s team.
Derry: Darrell McDermott; Sean McCullagh, Conor Quinn, Anton Rafferty; John McCloskey, Liam Og Hinphey, Ruairi McCloskey; Brendan Quigley, Kevin Hinphey (0-1, 1f); Ruairi Convery (0-6, 4f), Alan Grant, Aaron Kelly (0-1); Paul Cleary, Niall Ferris, Brendan Douban (1-0). (Subs) Paddy McCloskey for A Kelly, H/T; Sean McGuigan for P Cleary, H/T; Dean Flanagan for B Douban, 49mins; Michael Conway for N Ferris, 50mins; Paddy Kelly for A Grant, 65mins;
Wicklow: Wayne O’Gorman; Tommy Doyle, Steven Kelly, Peter Keane; Eugene Dunne (0-1), John Henderson, Billy Cuddihy; Eamonn Kearns (0-1), John Connors; Anto Byrne (0-1), Luke Maloney, Daniel Staunton; Diarmuid Masterson, Padriag Doran, Andy O’Brien (0-8, 6f, 1 sixty-five). (Subs) Criostoir Moorehouse (0-1) for P Doran , H/T; Aaron Nugent for J Connors, 47mins;Jonathan O’Neill for A Byrne, 57mins; Ted Kennedy for A Nugent, 70mins;
Referee: James Clarke (Cavan)