Derry defeated but no disgrace as Offaly lift Christy Ring Cup in Croke Park
2021 Christy RIing Cup Final
Derry 2-14, Offaly 0-41
The modern fans loves their analysis but sometimes sport can be as simple as one team being better than the other.
Offaly lifted the 2021 Christy Ring Cup after the most inevitable of finals. A role reversal of this year's Division Three football final between the two counties if you will.
There was no disgrace for a battling Derry side who left everything on the pitch but sport has levels and Offaly, like the Derry footballers had been earlier this season, were on a different one from a gallant Oak Leaf squad.
We may not have realised it then but the most pivotal result in this year's competition actually came last November when Down shocked Offaly in the 2020 semi-final in a rain sodden Newry. From that moment, this season's competition became a formality. That penalty shoot-out defeat forced the Faithful County to re-evaluate and the outcome of the ensuing soul searching saw a redoubling of commitment and effort The result? A return to Division One of the league with one game to spare and relentless march to a Christy Ring title that no team at this level was ever going to stop.
Offaly had 13 different scorers in a match that became shooting practise for them but Derry deserve credit never dropping their heads and ensuring their illustrious opponents remained honest to the end of 74 long minutes for the Dominic McKinley and Cormac Donnelly's men.
There will be lessons to learn for Derry and for a management team who have taken the job in possibly the most difficult circumstances a new management team could have imagined given the Covid restrictions. To that end, reaching the Christy Ring final was progress after a league campaign that doubled up as pre-season for the Oak Leafers.
McKinley and Donnelly will make sure the come back stronger for the experience but this day belonged to the Faithful County, who on this form would have been strong contenders for the Joe McDonagh Cup this season.
Already without Conor McAllister, Alan Grant, Mark Craig and Dara Cartin before the match started, Derry then lost Conor Kelly with Na Magha's Deaghlan Foley starting to left half forward and Richie Mullan dropping to centre half back.
Foley did well as well, scoring a lovely first half point and striking the upright with another excellent effort but in truth there was an obvious gulf between the sides from early on.
The opening minutes offered encouragement for Derry with Brain Cassidy, Derry's most lively forward on the day, and Foley hitting points to leave it 0-3 to 0-2 with four minutes o the clock.,
From there though, Offaly free wheeled into the distance with three successive John Murphy points the highlight of a sublime performance from the Offaly Balinamere clubman.
By the end of the first water-break, Offaly led 0-12 to 0-3 but there was a glimmer of hope for Derry through Gerald Bradley's lovely goal from Brain Cassidy's pinpoint pass which pegged it back to 1-04 to 0-13.
Yet Offaly barely blinked. Eoghan Cahill tagged three points on his way to a personal tally of 0-13 as the Faithful County led 0-19 to 1-07 at half-time.
The second half followed a similar pattern as the first with no shortage of heart from Derry but Offaly remaining little more than a dot on the Croke Park horizon.
Brain Cassidy, Cormac O'Doherty, substitute Shea Cassidy all ensured the scoreboard kept moving for Derry while Odhran McKeever flashed a brilliant second goal across Offaly keeper Conor Clancy on 63minutes but it was little more than window dressing. The destiny of the Christy Ring Cup had long since been decided.
Offaly won't return to defend their title next season and you wouldn't bet against them lifting the Joe McDonagh if they continue their upward trajectory. For Derry, there was plenty to learn from but also plenty to build on for McKinley and Donnelly. If they can get their injured players back and maybe add in one or two more from an excellent Under 20 panel, they should be capable of finally landing a Christy Ring Cup in the near future.
Derry scorers: Cormac O'Doherty (0-5, 5f), Brian Cassidy (0-3), Deaghlan Foley (0-1), Gerald Bradley (1-1), Odhran McKeever (1-1), Shea Cassidy (0-2), Richie Mullan (0-1).
Offaly scorers: Eoghan Cahill (0-13, 8f), Oisin Kelly (0-7), John Murphy (0-5), Leon Fox (0-2), Liam Langton (0-1), Ben Conneely (0-1), Jason Sampson (0-1), Aidan Treacy (0-3), Luke O'Connor (0-2), Shane Kinsella (0-2), Shane Dooley (0-2, 2f), Damien Egan (0-1), Killian Sampson (0-1).
Derry: Oisin O'Doherty, Meehaul McGrath, Sean Cassidy, Darragh McCloskey, Brian McGilligan, Deaghlan Foley, Richie Mullan, Eoghan Cassidy, Cormac O'Doherty, Mark McGuigan, Gerald Bradley, John Mullan, Odhran McKeever, Se McGuigan, Brian Cassidy. (Subs) Shea Cassidy for S McGuigan, 45mins; Padhraid Nelis for E Cassidy, 49mins; Brendan Laverty for D Foley, 62mins; Ruairi McWilliams for D McCloskey, 65mins;
Yellow Cards: M McGrath, 30mins; O McKeever, 31mins; M McGuigan, 50mins; R Mullan, 51mins; S Cassidy, 65mins; B Cassidy, 67mins & 71mins;
Red Cards: B Cassidy, 71mins;
Offaly: Conor Clancy, Paddy Delaney, Ciaran Burke, David King, Aidan Treacy, Ben Conneely, Killian Sampson, Leon Fox, Ross Ravehill, John Murphy, Liam Langton, Jason Sampson, Eoghan Cahill, Brian Duignan, Oisin Kelly. (Subs) Luke O'Connor for L Langton, 44mins; Eimhin Kelly for L Fox, 49mins; Shane Kinsella for J Sampson, 54mins; Shane Dooley for B Duignan, 58mins; Damien Egan for E Cahill, 61mins;
Yellow Cards: J Sampson, 45mins;
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin)