Derry finish league on a high with Offaly victory

Glen's Ethan Doherty hit his first senior goal for Derry as the Oak Leafers finished their Division Three campaign with victory over Offaly in Tullamore.Glen's Ethan Doherty hit his first senior goal for Derry as the Oak Leafers finished their Division Three campaign with victory over Offaly in Tullamore.
Glen's Ethan Doherty hit his first senior goal for Derry as the Oak Leafers finished their Division Three campaign with victory over Offaly in Tullamore.
Allianz Football Leagues, Division 3

Offaly 1-10, Derry 1-12

Derry finished their Allianz Division Three campaign by making it four wins from their final five games following a hard fought victory over Offaly in O'Connor Park on Sunday.

Ethan Doherty's goal two minutes before the break was the game's critical score as Rory Gallagher's Oak Leafers were forced to withstand an unlikely second half fightback which brought the home side to within two points by the final whistle.

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The strong Tullamore breeze played a large role in both halves but Derry's failure to push on from an excellent opening half will concern Gallagher ahead of their Ulster Championship clash against Armagh in Celtic Park next week, especially given his side managed only three points after the break.

With the promotion spots already decided away from the pitch during the week, the was in essence a warm up for the visit of the Orchard County and there were plenty of positives for Gallagher despite the unnecessarily close second period.

Derry's short kick-out policy worked perfectly both with and against the wind, maintaining possession during difficult periods and allowing Derry to build when on top, while the Oak Leafers' reaction to Aaron Leavy's first half goal showed a welcomed ability to change gear and go for the jugular.

The frustration was how Derry allowed Offaly, for whom substitutes Anton Sullivan and Niall McNamee were game changers, to get a foothold they hadn't looked like getting, albeit with the win a major contributing factor.

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Gallagher made five changes from the side that returned to action so impressively against Longford, the most notable of which was a first senior start for Conor Glass in midfield where he lined out alongside Ciaran McFaul. The remaining changes saw Conor McCluskey and Padraig McGrogan come into the defence with Paul Cassidy, a goal scorer against Longford, also getting his first start at senior level. Another who found the net in Celtic Park six days previous, Patrick Kearney, was a late change in the Oak Leaf attack, Kearney replacing Niall Loughlin who dropped to the bench.

The visitors started with that considerable O'Connor Park breeze at their backs and produced a controlled opening 35 minutes against an Offaly side who looked limited against the Derry defensive system.

Indeed, the half was a story of game management by Derry, patiently building play when faced with a packed Offaly defence but able to spring at pace should their own heavily manned rearguard win turnover ball, something they managed successfully on a number of occasions.

McFaul and Padraig Cassidy were the instigators, the Glen man showing for the second week in succession that he has the ability to dictate games, beautifully complemented by Cassidy's hard running, line breaking style.

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Behind them Glass and Chrissy McKaigue provided an excellent platform on which the runners could revel but it was professional rather than explosive until Doherty's goal two minutes before the interval. There were also totally understandable signs for ring rustiness from Glass at times, the odd errant pass or miscued shot illustrating his five year break from the game, but the Glen man showed enough and can be happy with his first start.

A Danny Tallon free got Derry off and running in the opening minute but Cian Farrell equalised two minutes later with what would be his side's only score until the 31st minute of the half. In between Derry prompted and probed, building a 0-8 to 0-1 lead which was fully deserved.

Shane McGuigan grabbed Derry's second point before getting on the end of a flowing Oak Leaf counter that started by Odhran Lynch to make it 0-3 to 0-1.

Derry's fourth was a superb solo run and shot from 'Man of the Match' McFaul whose surging runs forward were a constant target for Offaly fouls and brought at least three yellow cards.

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McGuigan's third of the day, this time from a free, a great effort from Tallon and another lovely solo score, this time from Lynn, made it seven before McGuigan hit a huge effort from wide out along the right hand touchline for his fourth of the day and Derry's eighth.

At that point it looked like being a routine afternoon for the visitors but Aaon Leavy's goal, worryingly finding space in the middle of the Derry defence and firing to the net despite the best efforts of Lynch and Chrissy McKaigue, suddenly brought a different complexion to proceedings.

Yet within 90 seconds Derry had responded, working the ball the length of the pitch before Lynn and McGuigan released Doherty through on goal. The Glen youngster still had plenty to do but the sheer power of the strike was too much for Paddy Dunican. Lynn's late point capped a good half as the Oak Leafers led 1-09 to 1-01.

Few could have envisaged anything other than more of the same in the second period even with the wind but half-time substitute Sullivan immediately changed to momentum, injecting pace and a directness into the home attack that had been previously missing.

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Derry didn't score until a 48th minute McGuigan free and when Chrissy McKaigue tagged on a well worked score immediately after it appeared normal service had been resumed.

It hadn't. The second half water break arrived on 50 minutes and afterwards, Derry would hit only one further score as Sullivan and fellow sub Niall McNamee, who finished with 0-5 (4f), chipped away at their lead.

Even a late red card for Eoin Carroll after booking for fouls on Cassidy and Lynn, failed to stop the Offaly charge. It always looked like falling short but Gallagher will not be happy with a second half return of two points from play and one free.

Derry deserved the win, ironically secured as Down were losing to Louth in Dundalk, a result that meant both Ulster counties finished on nine points with Down's victory in Newry back in February the difference between Division Two and Division Three football next season.

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Now, all eyes shift to Armagh. Gallagher knows Derry will be stepping it up a grade from this level and they go in as underdogs but that's a scenario the Oak Leaf boss is well used to and one he has thrived in over past years.

Derry looks to be moving in the right direction. Ahead of Armagh, the question is how quickly they are travelling.

Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (0-5, 2f), Ethan Doherty (1-1), Danny Tallon (0-2, 1f), Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Enda Lynn, (0-2), Chrissy McKaigue (0-1)

Offaly scorers: Niall McNamee (0-5, 4f), Aaron Leavey (1-0), Anton Sullivan (0-2), Cian Farrell (0-1, 1f), Eoin Carroll (0-1),P Dunican (0-1, 1f)

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Offaly: Paddy Dunican, Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney, Niall Darby, Eoin Carroll, John Maloney, Joseph O'Connor, Aaron Leavy, Jordan Hughes, Shane Horan, Ruairi McNamee, Catahl Mangan, Cian Farrell, Peter Cunningham, Bernard Allen. (Subs) Rory Eagan for J O'Connor; HT; Anton Sullivan for C Mangan, HT; Niall McNamee for C Farrell, 48mins; Conor McNamee for S Horan, 50mins; Colm Doyle for B Allen, 69mins;

Yellow Cards: E Carroll, 21mins & 60mins; J Maloney, 30mins; R McNamee, 51mins; P Cunningham, 63mins; B Allen, 65mins; C McNamee, 68mins.

Red Card: E Carroll, 60mins;

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Paul McNeil, Brendan Rogers, Conor Cluskey, Ethan Doherty, Chrissy McKaigue, Padraig McGrogan, Ciaran McFaul, Conor Glass, Danny Tallon, Enda Lynn, Padraig Cassidy, Paul Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, Patrick Kearney. (Subs) Conor Doherty for P Kearney, 45mins; Carlus McWilliams for P McNeil, 56mins; Niall Loughlin for E Lynn, 60mins; Michael McEvoy for P Cassidy, 64mins; Gavin O'neill for C Glass, 68mins

Yellow Cards: C McFaul, 23mins; G O'Neill, 69mins; E Doherty, 73mins;

Referee: John Ryan (Cork)

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