Derry dismantle Longford in hugely impressive opening league win
Allianz National Football League, Division Three North
Longford 0-5, Derry 0-21
If this is Rory Gallagher's vision for Derry, Oak Leaf are in for a real treat over the next couple of years!
Ability, intensity, organisation and belief - this 16-point victory over a shell shocked Longford was an emphatic statement of intent from a Derry side which looks to have a real point to prove.
All over the pitch Derry had star performances with Gareth McKinless, Conor Glass and Niall Loughlin brilliant in a a win as crucial as it was clear cut. With only three games to secure one of the top two spots, anything other than victory was going to leave the losing side playing catch up but Derry hit the ground running and now have a real platform to build on ahead of next week's home meeting with Fermanagh.
It may only have been a first step, and will mean nothing if Derry don't build from here, but individually Derry looked to have used the lockdown well to make a huge stride in terms of strength and conditioning work and it paid off here with a first class display that saw Shane McGuigan finish with 0-7, Loughlin with 0-6 and seven different scorers across the team in a game that was won from a long way out.
The attack was impressive but the defending even more so as Derry held Longford scoreless from the 13th to the 59th minute, winning turnover after turnover and restricting Longford to pot shots.
As much as number on the back of players means anything these days, Derry lined up with McGuigan and Paul Cassidy as the focal point of the attack but in reality Derry's front eight moved forward and back as one. When out of possession, Derry drew 15 men back behind the ball but good defence isn't the same as defensive football and if Derry dropped back without the ball, they surged forward in numbers with it.
McKinless was deployed as the sweeper for most of the opening half and the Ballinderry man brought bite in the tackle and even more crucially, electric pace to the Oak Leafer's transition play which was first class.
Those transitions prospered off a Derry defence displaying an intensity and support play which has been missing in recent years. Time and again, they frustrated Longford attacks, forcing nine first half turnovers which proved the perfect platform for Oak Leaf raids.
Conor Glass was looking every inch the modern inter-county footballer and helped himself to two first half scores from play. Indeed, the only criticism of Derry's first half was they hadn't put the game to bed after hitting five wides and striking the post twice with high efforts for points. Throw in Paul Cassidy's late goal chance was was bravely saved by Longford keeper Paddy Collum and Derry should have been out of sight.
Ironically, it was the was the home side who were first off the mark with a free from captain Darren Gallagher but Glass signalled his intentions early on with an equaliser inside 60 seconds. Longford were trying to keep three men inside in an attempt to keep Derry busy in their defensive third but it didn't work. Instead Derry bossed the middle third as a Shane McGuigan free and a NIall Longhlin '45' put the visitors 0-3 to 0-1 up.
Daniel Mimnagh pegged one back but that would be Longford last scores until the hour mark and by that stage the game was well and truly over as a contest.
By half-time, Glass, McGuigan, Loughlin (2) and McGuigan again had established a 0-8 to 0-2 lead that didn't do Derry's dominance justice.
McGuigan's early second half point from play signalled Derry were not about to ease off the accelerator and when Longford's David McGivney was sent to the sin bin on a 39th minute black card following a cynical check on McKinless, Derry sped off into the distance.
The Oak Leafers were scoring at will and the only frustration for Gallagher will be that his side didn't scored even more heavily because they created the chances. McGuigan and the impressive Emmett Bradley could have scored goals while Derry had at least one good shout for a penalty waved away but it was incidental to the outcome.
Derry are off and running. And at some pace.
Longford scorers: Darren Gallagher (0-3, 1f), Daniel Mimnagh (0-1), Larry Moran (0-1),
Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (0-7, 5f), Conor Glass (0-2), Niall Loughlin (0-6, 4f, 2 forty-fives), Emmett Bradley (0-3), Padraig Cassidy (0-1), Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Ben McCarron (0-1),
Longford: Paddy Collum, Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Colm P Smyth, Dessie Reynolds, Gary Rogers, Daniel Mimnagh, David McGivney, Kevin Diffley, Darren Gallagher (c), Rian Brady, Michael Quinn, Robbie Smyth, Liam Connerton, Oran Kenny. (Subs) Peter Lynn for K Diffley, HT; Barry McKeon for D Reynolds, HT; Joseph Hagan for O Kenny, 43mins; Larry Moran for R Smyth, 51mins; Iarla Sullivan for R Brady, 51mins; Darragh Doherty for L Connerton, 52mins; Gerrard Flynn for D Mimnagh, 60mins;
Black Card: D McGivney, 38mins;
Yellow Card: J Henry 70mins; M Quinn, 73mins;
Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Padraig McGrogan, Padraig Cassidy, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty, Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley, Ethan Doherty, Niall Loughlin, Ciaran McFaul, Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Paul Cassidy. (Subs) Oisin McWilliams for P Cassidy, 47mins; Paul McNeill for G McKinless, 58mins; Jack Doherty for B Heron, 60mins; Michael McEvoy for C Doherty, 64mins; Ben McCarron for E Doherty, 67mins; Conleth McShane for Padraig Cassidy, 67mins.
Yellow cards: C Glass, 56mins;
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)