Derry lose out to Wicklow in final
Wicklow 1-09, Derry 0-8
Michael Boland's 63rd minute goal ensured it was Wicklow who will be playing Division 2A hurling next season, as Derry fell agonisingly short in the Allianz National Hurling League Division 2B final, in Inniskeen on Sunday.
Played in atrocious conditions, Derry failed to take full advantage of the elements in the second half before producing an excellent backs to the wall display after the break and were leading by one going into the final quarter.
With neither side able to engineer any real daylight, a goal was always going to be critical and it was the Garden County substitute Boland who proved sharpest, pulling on a loose ball to find the bottom corner for a score, Derry couldn't recover from.
Renewing hostilities from their league encounter seven days previously, Derry made two changes to the team that started in Ballinascreen with Cian Waldron coming in for his brother Naoise and Se McGuigan replacing Niall Ferris, while Wicklow named one change as Danny Staunton came in for Michael Boland.
John McEvoy's men started the first half backed by the considerable Inniskeen breeze but seven first half wides and three shots short illustrated a frustrating opening 35 minutes for the Oak Leafers.
In contrast, Wicklow will have been delighted, especially having fought back from 0-5 to 0-1 down midway through the half to turn around with what looked a very manageable deficit in the conditions.
Adding to Derry's half-time woes was the lost of centre-half back Brian Og McGilliagn to an early injury, though the ability to introduce Slaughtneil star Brendan Rogers off the bench was some consolation, even if it facilitated a reshuffle along the half-back line that was expected to see some considerable pressure in the second half.
Things started well for Derry with Richie Mullan getting them on the scoreboard inside the opening minute after his initial free had dropped short but been worked back to him. The Kevin Lynch's player doubled his tally seconds later and when Se McGuigan increased the Oak Leaf tally to 0-3 inside 10 minutes things were proceedings very much to plan for Derry.
Wicklow rallied though, coming to terms better with the conditions to outscore Derry for the remaining 25 minutes half with a hard working half back line providing the platform for both attack and defence.
A Christopher Moorehouse free got Eamon Scallan's team on the scoreboard and despite Derry replying through another Mullan free, the Oak Leafers early momentum was fast disappearing.
Mullan took Derry's lead to four points on 24 minutes but that would be their final score of the half as points from Enda Donohue and a lovely effort from along the left hand touchline by Eamon Kearns ensured it was Wicklow who went into the changing rooms the happier at 0-5 to 0-3.
And it took Wicklow only five minutes of the second period to wipe out Derry's advantage thanks to a superb brace of scores from Eoin McCormack.
First he intercepted a wayward Sean Cassidy pass before advancing and splitting the posts. Then, to show he was equally adept from range he used the strong breeze to repeat the feat from 70m to tie the game at 0-5 a-piece.
Derry introduced Naoise Waldron and his first touch saw him produce a great block on Billy Cuddihy's clearance to allow Rogers to edge Derry back in from with their first score in 17 minutes either side of the break.
Wicklow responded through Andy O'Brien's point but again, Derry found an answer as Mullan (free) and Rogers reinstated Derry's two point lead at 0-8 to 0-6 on 53 minutes.
Derry were indebted to Meehaul McGrath's superb tackle to stop Moorehouse racing clear after a lovely take and pass from O'Brien but Eamon Kearns did manage to bring it to the minimum once more with a point from play.
There was nothing in it until Boland's crucial strike which turned the game on it's head. From one point down, Wicklow were two up and backed by the wind, Derry couldn't managed a path back.
A Mullan free did find the top of the cross bar but as Derry surged forward in search of the goal they needed, Wicklow were able to pick off insurance scores from O'Brien and Moorehouse to ensure Division 2A hurling for next season.
Derry scorers: Richie Mullan (0-5, 4f), Se McGuigan (0-1), Brendan Rogers (0-2),
Wicklow scorers: Michael Boland (1-0), Christopher Moorehouse (0-2, 2f), Enda Donohue (0-1, 1f), Eamon Kearns (0-2), Eoin McCormack (0-2), Andy O'Brien (0-2),
Derry: Sean Kelly, Paddy Kelly, Sean Cassidy, Ruaidhri McCartney; Conor Kelly, Brian Og McGilligan, Liam Hinphey; Thomas Brady, Paul Cleary; Gerald Bradley, Richie Mullan, Mark McGuigan; Cian Waldron, Se McMcGuigan, Meehaul McGrath.
(Subs) Brendan Rogers for B Og McGilligan (inj) 25mins; John Mullan for T Brady, HT; Naoise Waldron for P Cleary, 44mins; Niall Ferris for S McGuigan, 69mins;
Yellow cards: P Kelly, 19mins;
Wicklow: Cian Staunton, Brian Kearney, Billy Cuddihy, Martin O'Brien; Garry Byrne, Stephen Kelly, Warren Kavanagh; John Henderson, Jack Doyle; Eoin McCormack, Enda Donohue, Michael Boland; Danny Staunton, Andy O'Brien, Jonathan O'Neill.
(Subs) Eamon Kearns for B Kearney (inj), 9mins; Michael Boland for J O'Neill, 49mins; Luke Evans for E Donohue, 62mins; Ronan Keddy for C Moorehouse, 70mins;
Yellow cards: E Donohue, 22mins; A O'Brien, 44mins; G Byrne, 49mins; D Staunton, 53mins;
Refereee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)