Derry 4-16, Antrim 2-12
Damian Barton’s Derry reign got off to an emphatic start with a 10-point McKenna Cup win over a disjointed Antrim side at Owenbeg.
Both managers named experienced line-ups with only Joe Morgan and Shane Heavron for Derry and Jackson McGreevy and Micheal Heinze for Antrim making their competitive debuts on a sodden pitch.
The visitors started well with a brace of Brian Neeson frees giving them the early advantage but once Derry settled they took control and could have scored at least four first half goals. An Enda Lynn point got them off and running before Danny Heavron picked out Liam McGoldrick who showed superb composure to round Antrim keeper Chris Kerr and finish into the empty net.
The Derry midfield of Emmet Bradley and Conor McAtamney were on top to the extent that Saffrons manager Frank Fitzsimmons would be forced into a first half switch with Jack Dowling eventually replacing the ineffectual Sean McVeigh on 26 minutes but by then Derry had hit 2-06.
Another Neeson free and one from Michael McCann kept the visitors scoreboard moving but they looked vulnerable every time Derry attacked and were indebted to Kerr for a couple of top class saves. Kerr denied Emmet McGuckin on 14 minutes but the second goal wasn’t far away.
It was created by a superb catch from Conor McAtamney on half-way. He was fouled and from the free he hit a long ball into McGuckin who touched to ball on to Shane Heavron who rolled a soccer style finish into the net for 2-04 to 0-04.
The scores kept coming for Derry who should have had more goals but it was Antrim who shocked the home side with a goal against the run of play as half-time approached. Substitute Tomas McCann was the scorer breaking through a very open Derry defence to side step Eoin McNicholl and slam the ball into an empty net to leave the interval score 2-0 to 1-07.
Any Antrim hopes of a comeback disappeared within 13 seconds of the restart as McAtmaney won the throw in with ease before finding James Kielt whose high ball toward the square was broken down by Kerr for Shane Heavron to crown his competitive Derry debut with a second goal.
From there it was simply a matter of how many Derry wantred to score as all six starting forward ensured they got on the scoresheet from play. Antrim woes were compounded by a black card for keeper Kerr who had little option but to drag Derry substitute Niall Loughlin down as he threatened to score with his first touch. Ronan Hnna replaced him but he had no chance with Ryan Bell’s superb penalty into the top corner.
Antrim did grab a late consolation with McCann’s second goal but the game had long since ceased being competitive.
Derry: Eoin McNicholl; Karl McKaigue, Dermot McBride, Joe Morgan; Liam McGoldrick (1-0), Chrissy McKaigue, Danny Heavron (0-1); Emmet Bradley (0-1), Conor McAtamney; Ciaran McFaul (0-1), James Kielt (0-2, 1f), Enda Lynn (0-2); Emmett McGuckin (0-1), Ryan Bell (1-5, 1pen, 2f), Shane Heavron (2-1). (Subs) Oisin Duffy for J Morgan, 39mins ; Niall Loughlin (0-1) for S Heavron, 39mins; Christopher Bradley (0-1) for J Kielt, 45mins, Mark Lynch for E McGuckin, 45mins; Shane McGahon for C McAtamney, 53mins; Neil Forester for L McGoldrick, 60mins;
Antrim: Chris Kerr; Kevin O’Boyle, Conor Burke, Jackson McGreevy; Justin Crozier, James Lavery, Michael Heinze; John Carron, Sean McVeigh; Colm Duffin, Connor Murray (0-1), Mark Sweeney; Brian Neeson (0-5, 4f), Michael McCann (0-3, 3f), Kevin Niblock. (Subs) Tomas McCann (2-1) for James Lavery (inj) 14mins; Jack Dowling (0-1) for S McVeigh, 26mins; Patrick Gallagher for B Neeson, 51mins; Colm Fleming (0-2, 1f) for M Heinz, 58mins;
Black Card: Chris Kerr (replaced by Ronan Hanna, 40mins).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)