Derry with one foot in league final but Mickey Harte taking nothing for granted!

​Mayo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-13Derry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-15Mickey Harte is taking nothing for granted despite Derry having one foot in the Division One final following Sunday's thrilling five point victory over Mayo in Castlebar.
Mickey Harte was happy with how his team handled Mayo's late pressure in Castlebar on Sunday. Photo: George SweeneyMickey Harte was happy with how his team handled Mayo's late pressure in Castlebar on Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney
Mickey Harte was happy with how his team handled Mayo's late pressure in Castlebar on Sunday. Photo: George Sweeney

Goals from Niall Loughlin, Shane McGuigan and Conor McCluskey proved critical in a result that keeps Derry two points ahead of Dublin and Kerry ahead of next weekend's final round of fixtures in which the Oak Leafers entertain Roscommon, Dublin host Tyrone and Kerry welcome Galway to Killarney. Derry and Dublin also hold a considerable score difference advantage over the Kingdom should it come to that.

It's a scenario that leaves Derry on the brink but even in an era when the merits of league finals are under constant scrutiny, Harte was not prepared to take anything for granted after a fifth win from six Division One games.

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"It can change very quickly so unfortunately we cannot say we are signed and sealed in the final," explained the Oak Leaf manager, "We are in a strong position to get there but we'll have to see. We will have to wait another week to see if that comes through."

Derry initially looked set for a comfortable victory when they led by 2-07 to 1-04 at half-time despite a slow start and then forged nine points clear midway through the second period following McCluskey's brilliant goal.

However a Mayo goal from Paul Towey in the 56th minute was the signalled a momentum shift that brought Kevin McStay's men to within two points of the Ulster champions in a frenetic closing quarter in which Derry were indebted to Odhran Lynch's brilliant one handed save from Jordan Flynn's shot. Conor Glass eventually settled Oak nerves with a point that was added to by further scores from McGuigan and Niall Toner (2), and Harte admitted he had hoped for a more comfortable afternoon.

"Mayo started very well considering we were playing with the breeze and it didn't look a good day for us, but then we put together some good play and put up a decent lead at half-time" explained the Derry boss, "We figured we would have to add more to that lead to keep Mayo at arm's length. We probably got away too well, too early in the second half and took our foot off the pedal.

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"They got a new lease of life. They had to be speculative and look for goals from long shots, putting high ball into the square. They did that and they were effective.

"We made it hard for ourselves. I think when you are nine points up and maybe 10 or 15 minutes into the second half, I thought we would have had an easier end to our day but it proved otherwise. Mayo were serious operators when they came back at us and closed it to two points. Lucky enough we had a few men to pick off vital scores to give us that vital cushion again.

"There was a lot of learning in it and we are lucky to learn without losing."

The final quarter was in stark contrast to much of Derry's controlled play but Harte was pleased with how his team responded to Mayo's frantic assault on the Derry goals.

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"Well you cannot replicate that on the training field, you have to live it and our players today experienced that," said Harte of the pulsating nature of the game's finale, "You have to hand it to them because when that situation arrives on the field there's not much you can do from the sideline, the players have to deal with it.

"They have to have the character to overcome the adversity and try to work themselves out of difficult situations. I think they did that very well.

"Well, it was one of those things," he added of Mayo's decision to go long at times, "If you lump the ball in with the breeze at your back it's going to be difficult, especially when your keeper is playing an advanced role these days so, yeah, it's a difficulty; it's a danger but I think we still managed to deal with a few of them well enough.

"If there are enough of them being bombarded at you, then you are probably going to lose a few but again, it's an experience you wouldn't get on the training field so you have to be glad that you're able to deal with it."

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Derry now face a Roscommon team for whom only victory will do in Celtic Park next Sunday if they are to to give themselves a chance of avoiding relegation to Division Two.

Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan 1-6 (2fs), Conor McCluskey 1-0, Niall Loughlin 1-0, Niall Toner 0-3, Ciaran McFaul 0-1, Padraig McGrogan 0-1, Conor Glass 0-1, Paul Cassidy 0-1, Gareth McKinless 0-1, Diarmuid Barker 0-1.

Mayo scorers: Paul Towey 1-1, Jordan Flynn 1-0, Ryan O’Donoghue 0-3 (2fs), Aidan O’Shea 0-2 (1f), Colm Reape 0-2 (1f, 1 '45') Aaron McDonnell 0-1, Sam Callinan 0-1, Jack Carney 0-1, Fergal Boland 0-1, Tommy Conroy 0-1.

Mayo: Colm Reape; Aaron McDonnell, Rory Brickenden, Sam Callinan; Donnacha McHugh, Stephen Coen, Enda Hession; Jack Carney, Matthew Ruane; Bob Tuohy, Fergal Boland, Jordan Flynn; Aidan O’Shea, Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue. (Subs) Conor Loftus for Tuohy, Jack Coyne for Hession, Paul Towey for Boland, Fenton Kelly for McDonnell, Kevin Quinn for Loftus.Derry: Odhran Lynch; Conor McCluskey, Christopher McKaigue, Diarmuid Baker; Gareth McKinless, Eoin McEvoy, Padraig McGrogan; Conor Glass, Brendan Rodgers; Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul, Paul Cassidy; Niall Loughlin, Shane McGuigan, Lachlan Murray. (Subs) Niall Toner for Loughlin, Donncha Gilmore for McKinless, Cormac Murphy for Murray.Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary).

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