Derry 1-21, Wicklow 1-08
Division 2B league champions Derry kicked off their Christy Ring Cup campaign with a comfortable 13 point victory over Wicklow at Celtic Park on Sunday.
Dominic McKinley and Cormac Donnelly's team were far from their best but still had too much quality for the visitors who only escaped relegated thanks to a one point victory over Mayo in the play-off.
They did threatened briefly at the start of the second half when Eoin McCormack's shot somehow slipped past Oisin O'Doherty for Wicklow's goal but within two minutes Fintan Bradley had netted at the other end and Derry were in cruise control from there to the final whistle.
There was an impressive cameo for Na Magha's Michael Lynch who was introduced after the break and hit two lovely points while Richie Mullan made a welcome return from injury, starting at corner forward before dropping back to wing-half after the break.
Despite facing the wind in the opening half, Derry were in charge from the first whistle Odhran McKeever getting them off the mark with a third minute point to cancel out Brandon Ryan's opener for the Garden County.
Wicklow, who failed to win any of their five Division 2B fixtures this season, managed only one point from play in the opening 35 minutes during which time Derry controlled play with a short passing style which was pleasing on the eye. Indeed it was only the shooting of Ryan which kept the visitors in touch, the half-back accounting for four of Wicklow's six before before the break as Derry turned around with a 0-10 to 0-6 half-time lead.
Wicklow hit four first half wides but that still failed to disguise Derry's superiority. With Conor Kelly sweeping and full-back Paddy Kelly often finding himself without a Wicklow man to mark inside the '45', Derry really should have been further ahead with Brian McGilligan unlucky to see Wicklow keeper Robert Fitzgerald save well from his eighth minute ground shot. Otherwise it was plain sailing for the Oak Leafers.
John Doyle (free) and Richie Mullan swapped points for two points apiece before Derry hit five unanswered scores to lead 0-7 to 0-2 by the 15th minute, Meehaul McGrath, corner back Ciaran Hendry, Cormac O'Doherty (1f and 1 '65') and McKeever the men on target.
A mini Wicklow revival brought two frees for Ryan before another O'Doherty free took Derry to eight points and the Slaughtneil man grabbed another before Hendry's second of an impressive first half for the Lavey man.
Substitute Owen Young and Ryan had grabbed scores in between for Wicklow but even at four points, the half-time deficit looked ominous for the visitors.
Indeed it took al of nine seconds for Derry to signal their second half intentions, Brian McGilligan taking a pass from throw in to charge through an split the posts for 0-11 to 0-06 and when John Mullan tagged on another score minutes later the gap was out to six.
That advantage became 11 thanks to scores from McKeever (2), O'Doherty (2, 1f) and substitute Lynch, who hit the target with his first touch since being introduced just after the break as Derry led 0-17 to 0-6 on 48 minutes.
To their credit Wicklow rallied briefly thanks to that McCormack goal and a Doyle point but any hope of a resurgence was quickly dispelled as Bradley strode down the left to fire a fierce shot across Fitzgerald and into the far corner of the Wicklow net for a 1-17 to 1-07.
From there it was only a matter of the margin of victory but in a league format from which the top two counties will emerge to contest the final, score difference could play a part with every point potential a crucially. To that end, Derry played their part to the final whistle but there will be stiffer tests ahead, starting next week away to Sligo.
Derry scorers: Fintan Bradley (1-1), Cormac O'Doherty (0-6, 4f, 1 '65'), Odhran McKeever (0-4), Ciaran Hendry (0-2), Brian McGilligan (0-2), John Mullan (0-2), Michael Lynch (0-2), Richie Mullan (0-1), Meehaul McGrath (0-1).
Wicklow scorers: Eoin McCormack (1-0), Brandon Ryan (0-4, 3f), John Doyle (0-3, 2f), Owen Young (0-1, 1f),
Derry: Oisin O'Doherty, Ciaran Hendry, Gabriel Farren, Darragh McCloskey, Meehaul McGrath, Conor Kelly, Paddy Kelly, Cormac O'Doherty, Darragh McGilligan, John Mullan, Fintan Bradley, Brian McGilligan, Ryan Mulholland, Odhran McKeever, Richie Mullan. (Subs) Michael Lynch for G Farren, 43mins; Brendan Laverty for D McGilligan, 55mins; Padhraig Nelis for M McGrath, 63mins; Liam Eoin Campbell for O McKeever, 65mins; Tiarnan McHugh for R Mullan, 69mins;
Wicklow: Robert Fitzgerald, Dylan Byrne, Bryan Kearney, Tommy Collins, James Byrne, Martin O'Brien, Brandon Ryan, Mark Murphy, Jacques McCall, Aaron Byrne, Joh Doyle, John Toomey, Torna Mulconry, Eoin Kavanagh, Eoin McCormack. (Subs) Owen Young for T Mulconry, 24mins; Eoin Byrne for M Murphy, 65mins;
Yellow Cards: J Toomey, 20mins;
Referee: James Clarke (Down)