Derry breeze to Limerick League victory as Shane McGuigan hits nine
Allianz National League, Division Two
Derry 0-16, Limerick 0-04
It was never pretty and far from perfect at times but Derry have their first Division Two victory of the season thanks to a one sided victory over a disappointing Limerick team in Owenbeg on Saturday.
By the Oak Leafers' recent standards this was second or third gear stuff at best but it says everything about where Rory Gallagher has taken this Derry panel to that even a low key performance can yield such a comprehensive victory. Shane McGuigan was the star of the show, hitting nine points in a game in which the home side were never stretched.
With Division Two looking even more competitive than in 2022, a winning start was crucial and Derry will now go to Louth looking to build on a display that provides a good building block. The home shooting wasn't always as accurate as it has been and there was frustration at the lack of a Derry goal, but this was as comfortable as it gets, thanks largely in due to superb Derry pressing allover the pitch. That pressure smothered Limerick who never got a foothold at any point and ended up flattered by the eventual margin of victory.
All the pre-match talk centred on the inclusion of Derry's Glen trio Conor Glass, Ethan Doherty and Conleth McGuckian and despite rumours to the contrary, both Glass and Doherty started and looked fresh in a strong looking Derry 15.
The Ulster champions were odds on favourites to start with a win and the one sided opening half did little to dispel the notion, McGuigan hitting four points as Gallagher's team eased to a 0-7 to 0-2 half-time lead without ever hitting anything like top gear.
Limerick were without last season's leading scorer Josh Ryan and his absence was keenly felt as Ray Dempsey, in his first competitive game in charge of the Treaty County, saw Adrian Enright register Limerick's solitary score.
Derry had the ball in the net after only two minutes but Lachlan Murray's joy was short lived as the goal was ruled out with Ethan Doherty having been adjudged to have over carried in the build up.
Derry were far from their best, wayward shooting puncturing their almost constant attacking, but once Paul Cassidy got the scoreboard up and running on seven minutes, there was only one winner.
Niall Toner (free) and McGuigan had Derry three up before Enright's fisted effort for the visitors but thereafter it was one way first half traffic as McGuigan (3) and Toner eased Derry to their five point interval advantage. It probably could have been more as both Paul Cassidy and McKinless were close to finding the net but despite the lead, the Oak Leaf boss will not have been satisfied with the opening 35 minutes.
The second half was a similarly one way procession for the home side, the only doubt ever only Derry's margin of victory. McGuigan and Gordon Browne traded scores inside the opening five minutes, as did McGuigan and Iain Corbett, but thereafter the home side regained dominance with a minimum of fuss.
Ethan Doherty had the ball in the Limerick net again but referee Niall Mooney had already blown for a free while Cillian Fahy produced a superb block to stop Murray's goal-bound effort but the lack or threat at the other end meant those misses were never going to be critical.
Five points in succession from McGuigan (2), Paul Cassidy, Murray and Toner eased Derry to a 0-14 to 0-4 lead more representative of their control with five minutes left.
A late black card for Limerick's Paul Maher only made the run in al the more comfortable for the home side as both Doherty and Glass were withdrawn in the closing stages.
A beautiful late McGuigan solo effort capped an excellent individual display from the Slaughtneil man, one that brought that personal haul of nine points, and it was job done for Derry. It was far from perfect and there will be bigger challenges ahead, but Derry had their first win.
Aside from McGuigan, Niall Toner continues to impress in 2023 while Eoin McEvoy again looked an assured inter-county defender. Perhaps the most impressive stat was the calibre of player Derry were able to introduce off the bench, proof if it was needed that the Ulster championship now have a panel with plenty of depth that offers many options.
Next up for Rory Gallagher’s team is a trip to Louth next weekend, another match which the Oak Leafers will be expected to win. If Derry can maintain the opposition pressure they applied against Limerick next week and manage to convert one or two goal chances they will be well set.
Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (0-9, 4f, 1m), Niall Toner (0-4, 2f), Paul Cassidy (0-2), Lachlan Murray (0-1).
Limerick scorers: Adrian Enright (0-1), James Naughton (0-1, 1f), Gordon Browne (0-1), Iain Corbett (0-1).
Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Eoin McEvoy, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Niall Toner, Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Lachlan Murray. (Subs) Padraig Cassidy for G McKinless, 50mins; Oisin McWilliams for E Doherty, 53mins; Niall Loughlin for B Heron, 53mins; Niall O'Donnell for C Glass, 68mins; Ben McCarron for L Murray, 70mins.
Limerick: Donal O'Sullivan, David Connelly, Sean O'Dea, Barry Coleman, Brian Fanny, Cillian Fahy, Michael Donovan, Cian Sheehan, Iain Corbett, Paul Maher, James Naughton, Gordon Browne, Adrian Enright, Cathal Downes, Davy Lyons. (Subs) Robbie Bourke for B Fanning, HT; Hugh Bourke for D Lyons, 50mins; Colm McSweeney for B Coleman, 56mins; Peter Nash for A Enright, 64mins;Killian Ryan for C Downes, 68mins.
Black Card: P Maher, 61mins;
Referee: Niall Mooney (Cavan)