Derry secure Division Four's magnificent seven after Wexford score-fest
Allianz League Division Four
Derry 3-21, Wexford 4-16
Derry completed the perfect Division Four campaign with a far from perfect performance as they survive a late scare to see off Wexford by two points in a score-fest in Bellghy on Saturday.
Going forward Derry were sublime at times but the manner of defending will have raised concerns ahead of next Saturday's Division Four final against Leitrim in Croke Park. This was a game Derry won, almost threw away but were still good enough to see out to leave the fourth tier with a record of seven wins from seven games.
However they were indebted to Eamon McGill's brilliant late block on Jonathan Bealin's goalbound effort. Wexford should have been no where near Derry at that point but had Bealin's shot found the net two minutes into injury time - as it looked destined to do before McGill's intervention - a goal would have put the visitors ahead for the first time in the match. It was match saving stuff from the Lavey man.
As it was Derry were able to break for Conor Doherty to knock over the insurance point but much of the late drama was of Derry's own making despite a numerical disadvantage after Conor Mulholland was sent off on two yellow cards.
The game was won in a ridiculously open half with Derry hitting three goals and passing up other goalscoring opportunities on their way to an interval tally of 3-11.
With nothing on the line for either county there was a distinct lack of urgency and what ensued was a tit-for-tat scorefest of a half in which the Oak Leafers looked capable of finding the net almost every time they attacked.
Having made eight changes against Leitrim last week, Damian McErlain rotated again with Benny Heron's inclusion from the start the notable name in the Derry line-up and he had quite a return to the red and white, scoring 1-02 in the first 35 minutes.
Indeed the Derry full forward line had 1-04 on the scoreboard inside 11 minutes and with Wexford contributing 1-08 themselves, the 3-11 to 1-08 half-time score would be more than most matches manage after 70 minutes.
With the Wexford absent, Derry were two points up inside the opening minutes as Ryan bell, making his first start since the McKenna Cup game against Fermanagh in January, and Enda Lynn struck early points.
If the Wexford defence was struggling, their attacking counterparts were managing just fine with what little ball they were given as frees from Daithi Waters and Jonathan Bealin brought Paul McLoughlin's team level by the seventh minute.
Then it starting raining goals in Páirc Seán de Brún.
Benny Heron was the first beneficiary of Wexford generous defending on nine minutes as he announced his return to the inter-county game by fisting into an empty net after Lynn had teed up a chance the Ballinascreen man couldn't have missed.
Bell and Heron tagged on points before the second Derry goal on 12 minutes. Niall Toner took a great offensive mark and showed superb awareness to take it quick and set Lynn clear on goal. the Greenlough man had all the time in the world to sidestep Wexford keeper Conor Swaine and find the target for a 2-04 to 0-2 lead.
It was looking ominous for the visitors but they responded to the threat in style with a major of their own as ben Brosnan ghosted in behind the Derry defence on the inside right channel to fire home at Ben McKinless' near post.
And the goalscoring didn't stop there. Lynn'ws driving run was the starting point and when he found Heron on the left of the posts, the 'Screen player picked out Ryan Dougan for what was a carbon copy of his own goal, Dougan finding the net with ease at the back post.
That left Derry 3-05 tom 1-02 ahead after Heron tagged on a point but Wexford to their credit broke even for the remainder of the half as the sides turned around with Derry leading 3-11 to 1-08.
The second half was just as open but devoid of the same goalmouth action as Derry kept Wexford at arm's length until Mulholland's dismissal. Kevin O'Grady's early penalty for the visitors had had little effect on the Oak Leafer's dominance and with eight minutes remaining the home side led 3-19 to 2-15 and appeared to be cantering over the line.
One mixed up at a kick-out later and with Wexford's Barry O'Connor having extracted the full punishment by hitting the net, things began to unravel.
With six minutes left Wexford had a fourth goal when Brosnan hit his second of the game and suddenly the most unlikeliest of victories was on the cards for the visitors.
they may have got it to had McGill not intervened but Derry held out for for 'magnificent seven'.
However, in a game where the result is unimportant, performance matters and even with the inevitable personnel changes, Damian McErlain will want to see a vast improvement in Croke Park next Saturday.
Derry scorers: Benny Heron (1-2), Enda Lynn (1-3, 1f), Ryan Dougan (1-1), Ryan Bell (0-9, 3f, 2m), Conor McAtamney (0-1), Niall Keenan (0-1), Conor Doherty (0-2), Patrick Coney (0-1), Christopher Bradley (0-1),
Wexford scorers: Ben Brosnan (2-1), Kevin O'Grady (1-2, 1pen), Barrry O'Connor (1-1), Jonathan Bealin (0-10, 6f), Daithi Waters (0-1), Tiarnan Rossiter (0-1),
Derry: Ben McKinless; Sean F Quinn, Conor Mulholland, Paul McNeill; Patrick Coney, Eamon McGill, Niall Keenan; Ryan Dougan, Conor McAtamney; Conor Doherty, Enda Lynn, Padraig Cassidy; Benny Heron, Ryan Bell, Niall Toner.
(Subs) Christopher Bradley for E Lynn, 52mins; Karl McKaigue for R Dougan, 67mins;
Yellow Cards: C Mulholland, 40 & 56mins; B Heron, 41mins;
Red Cards: C Mulholland: 56mins
Wexford: Conor Swaine; Michael Furlong, Mark O'Neill, Sean Barden; Glen Malone, Brian Malone, Eoin Porter, Daithi Waters, Niall Hughes, Ben Brosnan, Jonathan Bealin, Conor Devitt; Barry O'Connor, Eoghan Nolan, Kevion O'Grady.
(Subs) Gavin Sheehan for S Barden, HT; James Cash for M O'Neill, 43mins; Tiarnan Rossiter for C Devitt, 50mins; David Shannon for N Hughes, 64mins; Michael O'Regan for E Nolan, 71mins;
Yellow cards: Eoin Porter, 35mins
Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo).