Derry bounce back against Meath in Navan but miss out as Roscommon hold off Galway

Allianz Leagues, Division Two

By Michael Wilson
Sunday, 27th March 2022, 4:24 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th March 2022, 9:16 pm

Meath 2-11, Derry 1-16

Derry made history in Páirc Tailteann but it wasn't history they'll want to dwell on as the Oak Leafers became the first county of the modern era not to secure promotion on 11 points.

Sunday's two point victory over Meath made it five wins, one draw and one defeat from their seven games, a record that has promoted any county from any division since the new league format came into play in 2007 but it wasn't to be for Rory Gallagher's team. Roscommon's five point victory over a shadow Galway side was enough to secure the Rossies that second promotion spot behind the Tribesmen meaning Derry remain in the second tier where they will be joined for 2023 by Dublin and Kildare.

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Derry defeated Meath in Navan but missed out on promotion after Roscommon held off Galway.

A frustrating end for Derry who will look back on that lethargic opening half in Dr. Hyde Park probably as much as the defeat against Galway. Promotion may have got away but having only been promoted from Division Three, improvement has undoubtedly been made over an overall positive league campaign.

Accusations of too much reliance on Shane McGuigan have yet to be put to bed entirely but look a lot less secure when Niall Loughlin is in the type of form Meath found him in. The Greenlough forward hit 1-4, including the crucial second half goal that brought Derry level with five minutes left. Even better was his diving injury time block to thwart Eoin Harkin as the Royals fought for their lives during six minutes of added time.

This wasn't perfect, far from it indeed. The kick-out again threatened to unravel much of Derry's good work during a poor second quarter but Gallagher wanted a reaction to the Galway defeat and he got it. Another season in Division Two may have been reminded Derry that they'll have to walk before they can run but if they keep this pace up they'll get to where they want to go sooner rather than later.

Derry made three changes from the side that lost against Galway, two of them enforced after the red card for Gareth McKinless and the broken jaw suffered by Oisin McWilliams. Padraig Cassidy and Conor McCluskey came in to start while Shane McGuigan's return from suspension saw Lachlan Murray drop to the bench.

Interestingly (or not) Navan is the only Irish town whose name is spelt the same forwards as backwards but there was nothing backward about Derry's start with McGuigan taking only 20 seconds to show what the Oak Leafers had been missing against the Tribesmen as he split the posts for the game's opening score.

That was cancelled out by a fine effort from Joey Wallace and one from Donal Keogan but the visitors were in control early on, Conor Glass superb and Derry holding possession and working Meath across the pitch.

A Loughlin free, another McGuigan point and a Benny Heron mark had the Oak Leafers 0-4 to 0-2 up before that lead was extended further by a McGuigan free and it should have been more after the Oak Leafers were awarded an 11th minute penalty as McGuigan was felled by a high tackle. The Slaughtneil man dusted himself down but his shot, low the Meath keeper Harry Hogan's right, was brilliantly turned aside and the miss energised the home effort. Derry still had control with a McGuigan free and Ethan Doherty pointing following a fine move for 0-6 to 0-2 lead but that's where the first half stopped for Derry.

Matthew Costello was first afforded far too much room but elected to point when he could have gone for goal and while Conor Doherty responded with a superb long range score, the Newbridge player's effort would be Derry's final score of the half as passes started to go awry and the visiting kick-out offered Meath more hope than it should have been doing.

Ronan Jones had made it a three point game but just as it had against Galway, a malfunctioning restart cost Derry dear as Lynch's kick was intercepted before Donal Keogan sent Jack O'Connor away to fire a low finish past Lynch to tie the game at 1-04 to 0-7.

The first half tide had turned as James Toher, Ronan Jones (mark) and Bryan Menton scored points but the last, a fisted effort, would have been Meath's second goal had it not been for a breath-taking Lynch stop on Menton's initial shot.

Derry should have goaled themselves in first half injury time when a ball broke perfectly to Heron in front of the posts but his scuffed first time soccer style shot went inches wide of the near post, summing up an opening half that had promised much for Derry but ultimately underwhelmed.

With Shea Downey have replaced an out of sorts Padraig Cassidy five minutes before the break, Derry returned from half-time in determined fashion, Niall Loughlin's 39th minute point ending the Oak Leafers' 24 minutes without a score.

A McGuigan free made it a one point game at 0-9 to 1-07 but Meath keeper Hogan answered with a free of his own before another Loughlin point had Derry back within striking distance at 0-10 to 1-08 before disaster struck for a second time.

With the Meath runners from deep having too much joy all afternoon, big midfielder Menton was this time the man charging through and the challenge of Shea Downey was adjudged to have been too robust. A second penalty of the game and this time Shane Walsh made no mistake for 2-08 to 0-10 just 15 minutes into the second half.

Meath had chances to extend that lead, notably when Donal Keogan went through but scuffed his shot, but the fact Derry limited Meath to only three points after the penalty says everything about the character Gallagher has instilled in his panel.

Two points from McGuigan and a lovely Padraig McGrogan effort had Derry back to 2-10 against 0-13 when Loughlin seized on a loose pass from home keeper Hogan. Instantly swapping passes with McGuigan, Loughlin was in on goal and made no mistake to tie the game up with five to play.

Sixty seconds later Loughlin had Derry in front, this time from a free and when Niall Toner extended the lead to two, Derry were back in control.

A '45' from Meath keeper Hogan following Loughlin's brilliant block set up a nervy finish but it was Derry held theirs, Conor Glass stroking over the insurance point. It wasn't enough for promotion but it's enough for Gallagher to know he has Derry moving in the right direction.

Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (0-6, 2f), Niall Loughlin (1-4, 2f), Benny Heron (0-1, 1m), Ethan Doherty (0-1), Conor Doherty (0-1), Padraig McGrogan (0-1), Niall Toner (0-1), Conor Glass (0-1)

Meath scorers: Jack O'Connor (1-0), Shane Walsh (1-0, 1pen), Harry Hogan (0-3, 2f, 1 '45'), Joey Wallace (0-1), Donal Keogan (0-1), Matthew Costello (0-1), Ronan Jones (0-2, 1m), James Toher (0-1), Bryan Menton (0-1), Jason Scully (0-1),

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Conor McCluskey, Conor Doherty, Padraig McGrogan, Padraig Cassidy, Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley, Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul, Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin. (Subs) Shea Downey for P Cassidy, 30mins; Niall Toner for B Heron, 50mins; Lachlan Murray for P Cassidy, 58mins; Shane Heavron for E Doherty, 63mins;

Meath: Harry Hogan, Ronan Ryan, Conor McGill, James Toher, Eoin Harkin, Gavin McGowan, Donal Keogan, Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones, Jason Scully, Thomas O'Reilly, Matthew Costello, Joey Wallace, Shane Walsh, Jack O'Connor. (Subs) Ethan Devine for R Jones (inj), 40mins; Bryan McMahon for E Devine (blood sub), 51mins (rev 55mins); Bryan McMahon for J Scully, 58mins; Cilliuan O'Sullivan for E Devine (blood sub), 63mins; Robin Clarke for G McGowan, 68mins; James Conlan for J O'Connor, 71mins;

Yellow Cards: J Scully, 5mins;

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)