Derry promoted to Division One as Clare brushed aside by 10 points in Owenbeg

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Allianz League, Division Two

Derry 0-14, Clare 0-04

Derry delivered promotion in emphatic style in front of over 4,000 spectators on Sunday, dismantling Clare by 10 points with a performance that underlined their Division One credentials.

Rory Gallagher's men made no bones about it. Before a Division Two ball was kicked this season they said Division One was was their first target of 2023 and six wins from six games later, that goal was achieved in the most emphatic of fashion with another Owenbeg super show. Limerick, Meath and now Clare have all arrived at the Dungiven venue this season only to be brushed aside with minimum fuss.

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Derry’s Paul Cassidy is challenged by Clare’s Dermot Coughlan at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon.  Photo: George Sweeney. DER2312GS – 02Derry’s Paul Cassidy is challenged by Clare’s Dermot Coughlan at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon.  Photo: George Sweeney. DER2312GS – 02
Derry’s Paul Cassidy is challenged by Clare’s Dermot Coughlan at Owenbeg on Sunday afternoon. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2312GS – 02

As it turned out, Louth's victory over Cork in Ardee meant Derry would have been promoted even had they lost but that was never on the agenda in a match Gallagher's men dominated from the outset. It may have lacked the drama of Dublin in Celtic Park two weeks ago but that won't annoy Derry one little bit.

They are back in the top flight and the Ulster champions have looked every inch the Division One outfit this season with a Croke Park final now to follow the final game against Cork next week.

That divisional decider with Dublin or Louth now becomes perfect preparation for the Ulster Championship opener against Fermanagh in Brewster Park on April 15th.

But that's for another day.This one was about promotion and Derry were in charge from the first whistle against a Clare side whose relegation was confirmed a couple of ours after the final whistle by Kildare’s victory over Limerick.

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Gallagher made one change from the team that started against Dublin, Gareth McKinless, such an effective half-time substitute against the Dubs a fortnight ago, in from the start this time with Padraig Cassidy dropping to the bench.

The stakes were high for both counties, the Oak Leafers seeking that top flight return but Clare anxious to avoid to avoid a first season in Division Three since being promoted back in 2016. Tactically the two teams mirrored each other, both puling every man back out of possession, but there the similarities ended. Derry were efficient, ruthless and composed while the Banner men looked nervous and bereft of ideas in a half in which they managed only three shots, the first arriving in the 27th minute as they failed to trouble the scoreboard with Derry turning around with a commanding 0-9 to no score lead.

The story of the first quarter could be summed up a such; Derry seven points from eight shots after nine attacks; Clare no shots from five attacks.

Ironically the visitors had no shortage of possession but most of it was in front of Derry's defence with Colm Collins' men struggling to penetrate the home 20m line.

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In contrast Derry went through the gears at their ease, the excellent Conor McCluskey and Ethan Doherty the main accelerators for wave after wave of attack that could have yielded even more than the nine first half points they eventually did.

A patient build up brought Niall Loughlin the game's opening score only one minute in and from there Derry were in cruise control with keeper Odhran Lynch spending more time in the opposition half than his own.

Loughlin's opener was added to by scores from Shane McGuigan (2), Conor Glass and Ethan Doherty as Derry went five up after 16 minutes and they had added further scores from Ethan Doherty again and Conor Doherty by the time Emmet McMahon registered Clare's first shot in the 27th minute.

A McGuigan point rounded off the first half action with Derry having a spread of six scorers, nine points to the good and looking every inch the Division One outfit.

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Colm Collins' response to the opening half was to introduce both Cillian Rouine and Padraic Collins at half-time but Derry resumed as they had left off, McKinless fisting his first score before a McGuigan free took the home advantage out to 11 with Niall Loughlin unlucky to see a goal chance saved by Clare keeper Stephen Ryan.

The game briefly sparked into life as a Keelan Sexton tackle prompted a bit of pushing and shoving that saw the Clare man booked along with Chrissy McKaigue and a black card for half-time sub Collins shortly after.

But it was only ever about the margin of victory. Clare did manage further scores from Emmet McMahon (2) and Dermot Coughlan but they were only academic footnotes in a totally dominant Derry display. Even when a wayward pass at the back presented Sexton with a gaping and unguarded net, McKaigue appeared from nowhere to ensure the Oak Leaf clean sheet was kept in tact, desire that has become the hallmark of this Derry outfit.

By the end of the season there were two divisions between these two teams and for most of this game it already looked like there was. Derry are back in the top flight and the performances of the past 24 months, the fully belong to be.

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Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (0-5, 1f, 1m), Ethan Doherty (0-3), Niall Loughlin (0-1), Conor Glass (0-1), Paul Cassidy (0-1), Conor Doherty (0-1), Gareth McKinless (0-1), Benny Heron (0-1),

Clare scorers: Emmet McMahon (0-2), Pearse Lillis (0-1), Dermot Coughlan (0-1),

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Eoin McEvoy, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Niall Toner, Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin. (Subs) Padraig Cassidy for McEvoy, 40mins; Shea Downey for C Doherty, 56mins; Matthew Downey for N Loughlin, 63mins; Conleth McGuckian for B Heron, 63mins; Niall O'Donnell for B Rogers, 67mins;

Yellow Cards: C McKaigue, 48mins;Clare: Stephen Ryan, Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Ronan Lannigan, Ciaran Russell, Pearse Lillis, Alan Sweeney, Cathal O’Connor, Darragh Bohannon, Jamie Malone, Eoin Cleary, Dermot Coughlan, Ikem Ugweru, Keelan Sexton, Emmett McMahon (Subs):Cillian Rouine for A Sweeney, HT; Padraic Collins for I Ugweru, HT; Gavin Cooney for C Russell, 42mins; Micheal Garry for R Lannigan, 54mins; Brendy Rouine for M Doherty, 63mins;

Yellow cards: C Russell, 40mins; K Sexton, 48mins. Black Cards: P Collins, 50mins.Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)