Derry 1-10 Down 0-6
A strong first half showing proved enough for Derry to get their Division Two campaign off to a winning started in a scrappy game in which Rory Gallagher's men suffocated a Down team who struggled to create chances.
Niall Loughlin's early goal proved the springboard for the success but while pleased at the result, Gallagher said remained plenty to work on ahead of next week's trip to Tullamore to face Offaly.
“I would love to say it was a smashing performance but it wasn’t, it was scrappy and it was full of individual mistakes,” said Gallagher, who admitted his side were far from their best in the seven point win at Owenbeg.
“That said, it’s a serious bit of progress. Two years ago we were leaving Newry after being beaten by Down and we had one point.”
The Derry manager was able to welcome back his Slaughtneil contingent and handed National League debuts to Matthew Downey and Lachlan Murray who impressed in the McKenna Cup.
Down had an early chance when Odhran Lynch attempted to gather a low ball driven in but spilled it momentarily, the Magherafelt keeper recovering well to eventually clear his lines.
The game's first score arrived in the fifth minute as Shane McGuigan made easy work of a routine free, only for Down half-back, Ruairi McCormick, to make an early mark on his league debut by hitting home Down’s equaliser a minute later to tie the game.
Derry began to take charge as Conor Doherty's excellent break set up Niall Loughlin for an easy goal to put Derry up by four and in the driving seat. Down responded to the goal with a point from Andrew Gilmore but couldn’t tighten the score line further.
Magherafelt man Conor McCluskey made a key tackle just before half time before Derry broke up the pitch, won a free and finished the half with a Matthew Downey point from the resultant free. Derry where well organised in the first half, with men in their own half out of possession winning the ball back as they frustrated Down and turned around with a 1-6 to 0-4 points lead at the break.
The visitors started the second half with some urgency as Conor Doherty provided an important goal-line clearance from a Caolan Mooney attempt that could have changed the game.
The opening score of the second half was provided by an Andrew Gilmore free as Down began to put the pressure on Derry but despite this early spell, Derry limited the Mourne men to just the two points in the second half.
It was 14 minutes into the second half before Derry would score when Ciaran McFaul placed the ball over the bar despite coming under serious pressure from Down defenders.
Shane McGuigan had a great chance for to put the icing on the Derry cake but could only hit the cross bar with a gilt edged opportunity, the ball falling to Paul Cassidy to hit the insurance point as Derry eventually ran away with the win.
“It was great to to get Matthew (Downey) and Lachlan (Murray) in and they both showed a bit of quality,” added Gallagher who saw both Gareth McKinless and Conor Glass forced off by injury.
“Our plan is to get ready for next week now and get up the road with another victory. Then we can knuckle down and spend some time with the full squad,” he added.