Derry promotion hopes in balance as Galway stroll back to Division One with 11-point victory

Allianz Leagues, Division Two

By Michael Wilson
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 3:40 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th March 2022, 4:10 pm
Derry's Conor Glass contests a high ball with Galway's Matthew Tierney in Owenbeg today (Photo: George Sweeney)
Derry's Conor Glass contests a high ball with Galway's Matthew Tierney in Owenbeg today (Photo: George Sweeney)

Derry 0-12, Galway 4-11

Galway are back in Division One and hold Derry's promotion hopes in their hands after convincing 11 point victory over the Oak Leafers in Owenbeg on Sunday.

Having previously conceded no goals in five league games, Derry simply had no answer a Galway attack that made full use of the stiff first half breeze at their backs to hit three goals and secure their top flight return with one game to spare.

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Derry's Paul Cassidy shoots wide of the Galway goal during the game in Owenbeg today. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Padraig Joyce's men were in control from early on and able to withstand a second half red card for Paul Conroy and a black card for Owen Gallagher with a minimum of fuss. Derry finished with 13 after a second half red card for Gareth McKinless which rules him out of next week's trip to Navan while Ciaran McFaul was also shown a late black card.

The cards were mere footnotes, the first half strikes from Matthew Tierney, who was superb, Damien Comer and Dessie Conneely were added to by an early second half major from Tomo Culhane to ease the Tribesmen over the line with plenty to spare.

Derry two changes from the draw in Dr. Hyde Park last week were enforced, an injury to Conor McCluskey meaning a start for Lachlan Murray while Shane McGuigan's controversial suspension means Ciaran McFaul, who was introduced off the bench against Roscommon, returns to start.

Galway also made two changes from the side that defeated Clare, captain Sean Kelly and Dessie Conneely coming into the starting 15 with former Antrim player, Owen Gallagher, and Shane Walsh dropping to the bench.

If the setting was picturesque for a game tantamount to a promotion play-off, a stiff breeze blowing straight down the Ownebeg pitch was always going to play a major role in proceedings with Galway electing to use to the elements and using it to its full effect in the opening half.

The breeze saw the home side camped inside their own 45 for most for the first 35 minutes, Galway able to press the Derry kick-out in numbers, forcing turnovers and sowing doubt in the home defence.

It paid major dividends too as Galway ripped through a Derry defence that hadn't conceded a goal in five previous league games to hit a trio of first half goals en route to a 3-08 to 0-4 half-time lead that already looked to give Padraig Joyce's men one foot back in the top flight.

Derry had started reasonably well, Lachlan Murray's lovely solo effort equalising Johnny Heaney's opener but from there on this was all about the Tribesmen.

Points from Paul Conroy and Dessie Conneely (free) had them two in front before Brendan Rogers was caught in possession wide on the home left. He looked to have been fouled but Galway weren't hanging about for a whistle as Damien Comer made his way down the wing, the ball eventually falling to Matthew Tierney who fisted home at the back post for 1-03 to 0-1 after nine minutes.

A second goal arrived on 22 minutes, Paul Kelly's piercing run through the middle this time opening Derry up and even if the big midfielder was held up, Galway still had time to work the ball left where Comer was lurking he applied a clinical finish across Odhran Lynch for 2-05 to 0-2.

Bad became worse two minute from the half-time whistle when Derry were again turned over on their own kick-out, Cillian McDaid and Paul Kelly swapping passes before the former sending Conneely away to fire a low finish into an overworked Derry net.

It could have been even worse had Lynch not been alert enough to stop a Sean Kelly shot in first half injury time but with a 13 point mountain to climb at the break, Derry needed a huge second half.

Galway's response to their swashbuckling opening half was to introduce the Gallagher for Robert Finnerty, an obvious nod to a more possession based second period against the wind.

Derry needed a quick start upon the restart but instead Galway had the ball in the Derry net inside once more as Johnny's Heaney driving run and shot from the left saw the ball blocked, but break across goal where it found substitute Tomo Culhane to score with his first touch seconds after being introduced off the bench for 4-08 to 0-05.

Cillian McDaid's lovely score extended the visitors' lead and while Derry responded with scores from Loughlin (f), Niall Toner and Ciaran McFaul, the game was long gone.

Things did become interesting when Galway were reduced to 13 players after a black card for substitute Gallagher for tripping McGrogan, a decision that was quickly followed on 59 minutes for a straight red card for Paul Conroy after he caught Oisin McWilliams in the face with his elbow.

Derry's numerical advantage didn't last though as Gareth McKinless saw red for his part in a melee sparked by Sean Kelly and Conor Glass, both of whom were booked. Sorting that mess out accounted for much of Gallagher's black card so on the resumption, the sides were back to 14 a-piece.

The outcome was McKinless will now be absent when Derry travel to Navan to take on Meath in their final league game knowing their promotion hopes are now out of their own hands.

Derry scorers: Emmett Bradley (0-3, 2f), Ciaran McFaul (0-3), Niall Loughlin (0-3, 3f), Paul Cassidy (0-1), Niall Toner (0-1), Lachlan Murray (0-1),

Galway scorers: Dessie Conneely (1-2, 1f), Matthew Tierney (1-3, 1f), Damien Comer (1-1), Tomo Culhane (1-0), Johnny Heaney (0-1), Paul Conroy (0-3), Cillian McDaid (0-1),

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Padraig McGrogan, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty, Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley, Ethan Doherty, Oisin McWilliams, Ciaran McFaul, Benny Heron, Niall Loughlin, Paul Cassidy, Lachlan Murray. (Subs) Padraig Cassidy for Conor Doherty, 46mins; Niall Toner for B Heron, 46mins; Conor McCluskey for L Murray, 59mins; Shea Downey for O McWilliams, 67mins; Ben McCarron for E Doherty, 73mins;

Yellow Cards: C McFaul, 52mins; C Glass, 67mins. Black Card: C McFaul, 75mins. Red Card: G McKinless, 65mins;

Galway: Conor Flaherty, Jack Glynn, Kieran Molloy, Liam Silke, Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Cillian McDaid, Paul Kelly, Paul Conroy, Matthew Tierney, Sean Kelly, Johnny Heaney, Robert Finnerty, Damien Comer, Dessie Conneely. (Subs) Owen Gallagher for R Finnerty, HT; Tomo Culhane for D Comer (inj), 38mins; Johnny McGrath for J Glynn, 48mins; Niall Daly for P Kelly, 57mins; Tony Gill for D Conneely, 70mins; Sean Fitzgerald for S Kelly (blood sub), 70mins;

Yellow Cards: S Kelly, 67mins; K Molloy, 76mins. Black Card: O Gallagher, 56mins. Red Card: P Conroy, 58mins

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)