Three goal Derry blitz Fermanagh to reach Ulster Championship semi-finals

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Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final

Fermanagh 2-08, Derry 3-17

"Paul, cut the sh*t!"

The Paul in question was Derry's Paul Cassidy whose goal had just shot the Oak Leafers into a commanding 10 point lead only 25 minutes into Saturday's Ulster Championship Quarter-final against Fermanagh. The goal capped a brilliant 35 minutes for the Bellaghy man as Derry turned around 2-09 to 0-05 ahead and already with one foot in the semi-final. His crime was a somewhat relaxed percentage pass up the line under the main Brewster Park stand.

Paul Cassidy was in superb form as Derry eased into the Ulster Championship semi-finals.Paul Cassidy was in superb form as Derry eased into the Ulster Championship semi-finals.
Paul Cassidy was in superb form as Derry eased into the Ulster Championship semi-finals.

The critic? Derry manager Rory Gallagher. Rory Gallagher doesn't do 99%. Despite dominating since throw-in with some superb displays in the opening half, including Shane McGuigan with 1-03 and a team display that yielded 2-08 from play and seven different scorers, Gallagher wasn't about to let standards slip, even from a player who probably edged the ‘Man of the Match’ honours.

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To that end the Oak Leaf boss will be more than a little annoyed at the nature of two second half Fermanagh goals but Derry were never in any real danger on a day they showed they are serious about defending their Ulster crown.

Cassidy was superb throughout and of probably more concern to Derry was the number of goal chances passed up. Fermanagh resorted to route one quite early in the second period when Conor Glass' absence, withdrawn as a precaution, gave the Erne siders some space for manoeuvre. They got reward with those two Che Cullen goals, both after high balls were broken down, but there was never any danger of a comeback.

Indeed the 10 point interval advantage didn't flatter Derry. In fact it probably sold them short such was the Oak Leafers control. With Gareth McKinless pushed up on Fermanagh sweeper Josh Largo Ellis, Fermanagh had no answer to Gallagher's team in an opening half that also included a point from play for Derry keeper Odhran Lynch.

Ultan Kelm provided the Ernesiders' only real hope and despite being picked up by the returning Chrissy McKaigue, Kelm's pace twice took him away from the Derry defender and created chances but those instances were the exception rather than the rule.

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From the moment Eoin McEvoy strode forward to split the posts only 45 seconds in, it was one way first half traffic. That score was added to by Padraig McGrogan and Lynch's lovely effort with Cassidy the making it 0-4 to no score before Ryan Jones finally opened the home account nine minutes in.

Derry responded through Conor Glass and after a Ryan Lyons free had doubled Fermanagh's tally, the Oak Leafers hit the net, McGuigan taking an Ethan Doherty pass before firing a fierce left footed finish into the corner for 1-05 to 0-2.

Derry continued to tag on the scores as McGuigan (free) and Ethan Doherty scored before Cassidy grabbed their second major on 25 minutes, taking a pass from Lynch before breaking two tackles and heading for goal. He looked to have lost possession under pressure but with the ball at his feet, Cassidy still had the composure to slip a lovely finish past Fermanagh keeper Sean McNally as Derry turned around at 2-09 to 0-05.

Fermanagh introduced Conor McShea and Declan McCusker at the break but the opening score of the second period was Derry's as Brendan Rogers got his name on the scoreboard.

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Fermanagh responded with a huge Ultan Kelm point but by now, with Glass having been replaced by Benny Heron the intention was clear and balls began to rain in on the Derry square. It was a tactic tried four times in the opening half but each time Derry had coped comfortably. Not so this time as Cullen twice was the beneficiary of goals that offered hope but not expectation.

Indeed, his first major saw Derry reply with a text book training ground restart that sent Conor Doherty away into space in Fermanagh's half. Doherty had Heron in support and the Derry substitute would have goaled only for a foul by McCusker that resulted in a penalty. Up stepped McGuigan and Derry were back in cruise control at 3-10 to 2-06.

Fermanagh would add only two more points over the remaining 17 minutes while Derry added seven as Paudie Cassidy helped himself to a brace but there were also simple goal chances passed up by wrong decisions.

A 12 point Ulster Championship win away from home, 11 different scorers and into the semi-finals. It wasn't perfect but for a first championship outing of the season, there was plenty to be optimistic about.

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Derry scorers: Shane McGuigan (2-5, 1pen, 2f), Paul Cassidy (1-2), Padraig Cassidy (0-2), Eoin McEvoy (0-1), Padraig McGrogan (0-1), Odhran Lynch (0-1), Conor Glass (0-1), Ethan Doherty (0-1), Brendan Rogers (0-1), Conor McCluskey (0-1),Niall Toner (0-1).

Fermanagh scorers: Che Cullen (2-0), Ryan Lyons (0-2, 2f), Ultan Kelm (0-2), Ryan Jones (0-1), Aidan Breen (0-1), Josh Largo Ellis (0-1, 1 '45'), Declan McCusker (0-1).

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Chrissy McKaigue, Padraig McGrogan, Eoin McEvoy, Conor McCluskey, Gareth McKinless, Padraig Cassidy, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Conor Doherty, Niall Toner, Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty, Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin. (Subs) Benny Heron for C Glass, 40mins; Paul McNeill for E McEvoy, 58mins; Ben McCarron for C McKaigue, 61mins; Lachlan Murray for N Loughlin, 67mins; Declan Cassidy for N Toner, 70mins;

Fermanagh: Sean McNally, Luke Flanagan, Che Cullen, Cian McManus, Jonathan Cassidy, Shane McGullion, Lee Cullen, Ryan Jones, Brandon Horan, Aidan Breen, Ryan Lyons, Ronan Caffrey, Ultan Kelm, Darragh McGurn, Josh Largo Ellis. (Subs) Conor McShea for A Breen, HT; Declan McCusker for B Horan, HT; Conal Jones for C MCManus, 53mins; Garvan Jones for R Lyons, 61mins; Fionan O'Brien for J L Ellis, 68mins;

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)