Derry secure dramatic draw with Monaghan thanks to Doherty's injury time score

McKenna Cup, Section C

Derry 0-12, Monaghan 0-12

Ethan Doherty grabbed a deserved injury time equaliser as Derry started 2022 with an enthralling McKenna Cup, Section C draw with Monaghan at Owenbeg on Friday night.

Kieran Duffy looked to have edged to Farney men to a one point victory with a 73rd minute point that would have been harsh on an Oak Leaf side that dominated long spells and should have scored more than one goal.

Derry’s Shea Downey holds possession under pressure from Monaghan’s Darragh Downey. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Even after Duffy's late point, Matthew Downey's superb ball sent Doherty clear for what could have proved a winning goal but Doherty sensibly took the safer option of shooting over to secure a draw which means the group will now be decided by the counties respective meetings with Fermanagh.

Without his Slaughtneil contingent due to their involvement in he All Ireland Club hurling series, Derry manager Rory Gallagher handed senior debuts to 2020 All Ireland winning minors Lachlan Murray and Matthew Downey, son of 1993 All Ireland captain Henry Downey while Monaghan had only one debutante in Daragh McElearney who lined out at half-back.

The second half also saw debuts for another All Ireland winning Derry minor in Dan Higgins as well as Anton Tohill, son of Oak Leaf legend Anthony.

Derry started well with two goal chances in the opening five minutes, both of which produced impressive Beggan stops. First good work from Conor Doherty teed up Paul Cassidy but coming in off the right at an acute angle, Beggan was equal to his low effort.

Derry manager Rory Gallagher. (Photo: George Sweeney)

If that stop was routine, Beggan's second was anything but as Murray's high shot was followed in by Loughlin who connected sweetly with a lovely first time fist only to see Beggan produce a superb close range reaction stop at the expense of a point.

That score was one of three from Loughlin in a lively opening, all three of which were cancelled out by Beggan frees as the sides traded blows in the first quarter which ended with an Emmet Bradley free all that separated the sides.

Fintan Kelly's point equalised things after Lachlan Murray was somehow adjudged to have over carried when three Monaghan defenders had almost pulled his shirt over his head.

The tit-for-tat nature of the scoring continues as referee Sean Laverty allowed the game to flow with Loughlin and Killian Lavelle swapping points for five a-piece before Derry missed a gilt edged goal chance on 26 minutes.

The opportunity owed everything to brilliant individual skill from Niall Toner who sold two dummies and one feint to put himself in the clear. His low shot beat Beggan but not the inside of the Monaghan post, breaking across goal where the inrushing Michael McEvoy couldn't sort his feet in time and scuffed his effort inches of an empty net from only six yards out.

Derry's running game was continuing to cause Monaghan problems with Murray grabbing his first score in the Derry senior short on 32 minutes with a lovely effort coming in off the right wing to strike left footed.

That point was good but better was to follow as Oisin McWilliam's huge effort from around 50m ensured the home side went into half-time with a two pint lead at 0-7 to 0-5.

Derry signalled their second half intentions within 13 seconds of the restart as Emmett Bradley won the throw-in and sent his midfield partner McWilliams away to split the posts just as he had the end of the opening half for a three point lead.

Beggan produced something of a collector's item with a short range free that drifted wide as Benny Heron extended Derry's lead to four before Monaghan 's first score for 18 minutes either side of half-time arrived courtesy of a lovely Conor Boyle effort.

Derry responded through another Loughlin free to extend their advantage to 0-10 to 0-6 only for Bannigan to fire over a brilliant effort from wide on the Monaghan left to peg Derry back again.

When Andrew Woods knocked over a free minutes later it was the first time in the match Monaghan had put together back to back scores and crucially for the visitors Derry were back within range at 0-10 to 0-8 as the second half water break was called.

A Bannigan free cut Derry lead to the minimum upon the resumption before the same player, via the same route, levelled proceedings and handed all the initiative to the Farney men as we entered the final 10 minutes.

A superb Jack McCarron free, the Farney's fifth score without reply, had Monaghan in front for the first time in the game on 62 minutes only for Ethan Doherty to break the sequence and signal Derry were far from done.

Duffy's point looked to have won it but Derry, and Doherty, were far from finished to ensure 2022 started in promising fashion.

Derry scorers: Niall Loughlin (0-5, 2f, 1 '45), Emmett Bradley, (0-1, 1f), Lachlan Murray (0-1), Oisin McWilliams (0-2), Benny Heron (0-1), Ethan Doherty (0-2)

Monaghan scorers: Rory Beggan (0-3, 3f), Fintan Kelly (0-1), Killian Lavelle (0-1), Conor Boyle (0-1), Micheal Bannigan (0-4, 2f), Andrew Woods (0-1, 1f), Kieran Duffy (0-1),

DERRY: Oran Lynch, Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Shea Downey, Ethan Doherty, Conor Doherty, Michael McEvoy, Oisin McWilliams, Emmett Bradley, Paul Cassidy, Benny Heron, Matthew Downey, Niall Toner, Niall Loughlin, Lachlan Murray. (Subs) Declan Cassidy for N Toner, 60mins; Eoin McEvoy for M McEvoy, 62mins; Anton Tohill for S Downey, 66mins; Dan Higgins for B Heron

Yellow cards: M Downey, 15mins; C Doherty, 51mins; B Heron, 69mins; N Loughlin 72mins;

MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan, Shane Hanratty, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie, Karl O Connell, Dessie Ward, Darragh McElearney, Killian Lavelle, Niall Kearns, Fintan Kelly, Andrew Woods, Barry McBennett, David Garland, Gary Mohan, Darren Hughes. (Subs) Micheal Bannigan for F Kelly, 25mins; Aaron Mulligan for D Hughes, 39mins; Kieran Duffy for K O'Connell, 39mins; Jason Irwin for G Mohan, 48mins; Jack McCarron for B McBennett, 48mins

REFEREE: Sean Laverty (Antrim)