Three goal Derry breeze past Monaghan in Celtic Park to maintain perfect start

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Allianz Football Leagues, Division One

Derry 3-17, Monaghan 0-13

Derry continued their 100 per cent start to life under Mickey Harte with an emphatic 13 points victory over an out of sorts Monaghan at Celtic Park on Saturday, a display capped by three goals of the highest calibre.

The Oak Leafers looked to be running their own 'goal of the night' competition at times as Conor McCluskey's brilliant left footed first half effort was bettered in the second by Padraig McGrogan's sublime move and finish which killed the game as a contest as early as the 50th minute. There was still time for another lovely Conor Doherty goal but the points were long in the bag to secure a victory which means Derry should be now concentrating on the top half rather than the bottom half of the table for the remainder of the campaign.

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Derry’s Diarmuid Baker keeps Ciaran McNulty of Monaghan at arm’s length. Photo: George SweeneyDerry’s Diarmuid Baker keeps Ciaran McNulty of Monaghan at arm’s length. Photo: George Sweeney
Derry’s Diarmuid Baker keeps Ciaran McNulty of Monaghan at arm’s length. Photo: George Sweeney

Yet even the goals couldn't mask another superb individual display from Shane McGuigan. After hitting Derry's opening five points, the Slaughtneil marksman went on to hit 0-11 and was largely unplayable amid a free flowing attacking Oak Leaf unit.

And there were others not far behind him. Dairmuid Baker continues to enhance his growing reputation at county level while Ethan Doherty set up both Derry's opening two goals in a selfless display.

And better still, Derry were able to introduce the likes of Emmet Bradley and Niall Toner off the bench while Cormac Murphy, Odhran Lynch and Gareth McKinless weren't even involved as Harte continues to develop growing options within his panel.

In total Derry made three changes from the side that started the victory over Tyrone two weeks previous, hamstring victims Lynch and McKinless replaced by Ryan Scullion and fit again Eoin McEvoy while Murphy's broken finger meant a first league start of the season for Lachlan Murray.And just like they had against the Red Hands, the Ulster champions played with the wind in the first half. However, unlike against the Red Hands, Derry took full advantage of the elements.

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Derry’s Paul Cassidy evades a tackle from Monaghan’s Michael Hamill. Photo: George SweeneyDerry’s Paul Cassidy evades a tackle from Monaghan’s Michael Hamill. Photo: George Sweeney
Derry’s Paul Cassidy evades a tackle from Monaghan’s Michael Hamill. Photo: George Sweeney

A cagey enough opening period saw the sides swap two scores apiece with Monaghan keeper Darren McDonnell and Michael Hamill cancelling out two McGuigan frees. Indeed those opening exchanges were Monaghan versus McGuigan and the Farney were losing as last season's championship top scorer hit Derry's first five points to hand the home side a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the 13th minute. Four minutes later Derry had doubled that three point lead as Ciaran McFaul pointed twice in quick succession before McGuigan grabbed his sixth of a superb half with his best of the day.

Joel Wilson's point was Monaghan's first for 15 minutes and it settled the visitors, temporarily at least, but when a Jack McCarron free brought it back to 0-8 to 0-4 with 20 minutes played, Vinny Corey will have been relatively happy given they had the wind to come in the second period.

That satisfactory scenario disappeared within a minute however as McCluskey netted and Paul Cassidy tagged on a point. The goal was the match defining score and owed a huge debt to Doherty's selfless running.The 2023 'Young Player of the Year' made a superb run to pick up Ryan Scullion's kick-out and set the move in motion before popping up at the other end to tee up McCluskey whose brilliant low, left footed finish was worthy of the move.

To their credit, Monaghan grabbed the final two scores of the half through two McCarron frees but at 1-09 to 0-06, the Farney had plenty to do after the break.

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And as they'd shown against Tyrone, Derry are equally adept against the elements as half-time substitute Niall Toner opened their second half account with his first touch of the ball.

Monaghan needed lifting and as he has so often, McCarron was the man to provide inspiration, grabbing three scores, two of the highest order, to bring his team back into the game at 1-11 to 0-09 just 10 minutes into the second half.It looked game on but Monaghan's hope lasted only minutes as Derry went through the gears and found a sublime second goal.

Again it was a move started at the back, Diarmuid Baker's brilliant interception setting the Oak Leafers away. Padraig McGrogan drove forward at pace, swapped passes with 'assist king' Ethan Doherty and then produced a sublime 20 yard finish into the far corner. It was a superb finish and it finished Monaghan.Conor Doherty added a third Derry major with another lovely strike from an Eunan Mulholland pass, Mulholland making his National League debut as a substitute and becoming the eighth player to be handed his senior debut by Harte since taking over.

It was cruise control from there for a Derry side who never looked in danger. Three from three and with a panel which is beginning to give its manager some nice headaches, this was impressive stuff.

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Derry scorers: Conor McCluskey (1-0), Padraig McGrogan (1-0), Conor Doherty (1-0), Shane McGuigan (0-11, 6f), Ciaran McFaul (0-2), Paul Cassidy (0-1), Niall Toner (0-2, 1f), Ethan Doherty (0-1).

Monaghan scorers: Jack McCarron (0-8, 4f, 1m), Darren McDonnell (0-1, 1f), Michael Hamill (0-1), Joel Wilson (0-1), Andrew Woods (0-1), Dessie Ward (0-1).

Derry: Ryan Scullion, Conor McCluskey, Christopher McKaigue, Diarmuid Baker, Conor Doherty, Eoin McEvoy, Padraig McGrogan, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul, Paul Cassidy, Niall Loughlin, Shane McGuigan, Lachlan Murray. (Subs) Niall Toner for L Murray, HT; Emmett Bradley for N Loughlin, 42mins; Donncha Gilmore for P Cassidy, 52mins; Eunan Mulholland for C McFaul, 59mins; Martin Bradley for D Baker, 64mins;

Monaghan: Darren McDonnell; Ryan Wylie, Colm Lennon, Ryan O’Toole; Ryan McAnespie, Kieran Duffy, Thomas McPhillips; Joel Wilson, Gary Mohan; Stephen O’Hanlon, Ciaran McNulty, Michael Hamill; Michael McCarville, Jack McCarron, Jason Irwin. (Subs) Kevin Loughran for R McAnespie, 33mins; Andrew Woods for S O'Hanlon (inj), HT; Stephen Mooney for J Irwin, 42mins; Dessie Ward for C Lennon, 54mins; Barry McBennett for G Mohan , 64mins.

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)

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