Derry 0-11, Clare 1-08
James Kielt’s brilliant injury time point ensured Derry’s National League Division Two campaign began with a share of the spoils against a Clare team that finished with 14 men after three second half black cards.
Kielt fired over the bar from the left hand side four minutes into five added minutes with Colm Collins’visitors a man short after Dean Ryan’s black card arrived after the visitors had already used their full quota of substitutes.
It capped a dramatic finale to a game both sides will feel they should have won. The first half belonged to Clare who somehow went into the break a point behind having squandered two goal chances and they shot a total of 14 wides over the 75 minutes.
Derry looked lethargic in the opening half but improved considerably and probably would have gone on to win had their decision making not let them down on occasion as they looked for goals from positions when points looked better advised.
Oak Leaf boss Damian Barton handed league debuts to four players, including his entire full-back line of Niall Keenan, Conor Nevin and Ronan Murphy, with centre-half back Michael McEvoy completing the quartet.
Clare named influential midfielder Gary Brennan in their starting line-up, less than 24 hours after Ballyea hurlers to the All Ireland Senior Club final and he showed no ill effects with an excellent display of strong running that should have brought Colm Collins’ team at least two first half goals.
As it was the Banner County went into the break trailing by 0-6 to 0-5 which in itself was one of the few positives for the home side who looked disjointed at times.
Derry captain Enda Lynn picked up where he had left off in the McKenna Cup with two points inside the opening four minutes including the first of the game after only 13 seconds from a quick Conor McAtameny free.
The Oak Leafers began with both Mark Lynch and Emmett McGuckin playing inside but as the half wore one, Lynch dropped deeper as Clare gained more of a foothold in the game.
Both sides looked to clear their own 45m for kick-outs, respective keepers Thomas Mallon and Joe Hayes, then looking for a runner coming in toward their own posts.
It meant primary possession was picked up very deep and Clare were supporting their runners better off the shoulder.
Ciaran Russell grabbed the visitors first point from a free on five minutes before Eoin Cleary equalised from another free after he had seen a fisted effort strike the Derry bar seconds earlier.
From there to half-time it was tit-for-tat, the home side edging in front again after a lovely move that saw James Kielt win possession inside his own ‘45’ before rejoining the move five passes later to shoot over the Clare bar from 40m.
Carlus McWilliams extended the lead to 0-4 to 0-2 but by that stage Sean Collins had already gone clear for Clare and shot weakly at Mallon despite David Tubridy screaming at him for a pass and an easy tap in.
Points from Liam Markham and Collins had the sides levels on 23 minutes with Jamie Malone missing another gilt edged goal chance for the visitors after more good work from Brennan.
Cleary and Kielt swapped points before a slightly fortuitous McWilliams pass toward McGuckin saw both the Derry forward and the Clare keeper slip and the ball bounce over the bar to give the Oak Leafers an interval lead they scarcely deserved.
After their first half misses, the elusive goal Clare had been looking arrived seven minutes after the interval as Malone easily found the back of an empty net from Shane Brennan’s pass.
The goal put the visitors 1-05 to 0-6 up but Derry hit back to levels with points from Niall Loughlin (45) and Mark Lynch and they should have went in front but opted to go for goal too many times when a point seemed the better option.
Clare substitute Darren Nagle was his side’s first black card having only been on the pitch for six minutes before tripping Danny Tallon. He was followed to the sidelines by corner-back Marty McMahon for his part in a tussle with Carlus McWilliams and when dissent got the better of Ryan in the closing minutes it left Clare a man short.
And it proved crucial. After Niall Loughlin and Tallon had both missed goal chances for Derry, Ciaran Russell looked to have won the game for Clare with a 74th minute point only to see Derry go straight up the pitch.
The Oak Leafers could have won it when Enda Lynn’s shot was blocked but as the ball was recycled it found with the perfect man in Kielt who showed nerves of steel to guide his shot over via the top of the cross bar and ensured Derry travel to Meath next week with one point on the board.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Niall Keenan, Conor Nevin, Ronan Murphy; Neil Forester, Michael McEvoy, Peter Hagan; Conor McAtamney, James Kielt (0-4, 1f); Enda Lynn (0-2), Niall Loughlin (0-2, 1 forty-five), Carlus McWilliams (0-2); Mark Lynch (0-1, 1f), Emmett McGuckin, Benny Heron. (Subs) Danny Tallon for B Heron, 26mins; Gavin O’Neill for C McAtamney, 55mins; Jack Doherty for P Hagan, 60mins; Oisin Heagrty for C Nevin, 69mins;
Clare: Joe Hayes; Martin McMahon. Cian O’Dea, John Hayes; Liam Markham (0-1), Gordon Kelly, Dean Ryan; Gary Brennan, Ciaran Russell (0-2); Jamie Malone (1-0), Sean Collins (0-1), Shane Brennan; Eoin Cleary (0-3, 3f), David Tubridy (0-1), Keelan Sexton. (Subs) Darren Nagle for C O’Dea, 48mins; Eoghan Collins for D Nagle (Black Card) 54mins; Seanie Malone for K Sexton, 59mins; Shane McGrath for S Collins, 60mins; Gearoid O’Brien for M McMahon (Black Card) 60mins; David Egan for S Brennan, 67mins;