McCarron the hat-trick hero as Derry defeat Fermanagh
Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup
Fermanagh 2-08, Derry 3-09
Ben McCarron scored a sublime 3-01 as Derry registered their first win of 2019 with a hard fought, four-point McKenna Cup victory over Fermanagh in Brewster Park on Sunday.
The young Steelstown forward was an early introduction for the unfortunate Ryan Bell and grabbed the headlines with supreme display of finishing that will live long in the memories of the small band of Oak Leaf fans there to witness it.
A superb first half strike was added to by an opportunistic second and an absolutely sublime third when, despite falling to the ground under pressure from Ryan Jones, McCarron chipped the most delicate of finishes over James McGrath to give Derry the cushion they needed to see the game out.
His performance stood out among a string of huge displays from some of Derry's rising Under 20 stars. McCarron's Steelstown team-mate, Eoghan Concannon gave his second assured senior display after a promising debut against Tyrone while Sean Quinn covered every blade of Brewster Park grass alongside Glen's Ryan Dougan who looked like he had been playing at this level for years
Derry also handed a senior debut to Magherafelt keeper Odhran Lynch, cousin of former county captain Mark, and the 19-year old acquitted himself superbly in the opening half with his booming kick-outs adding to the Oak Leaf arsenal.
For their part, Fermanagh named a strong looking starting 15 which included six players that started last year's Ulster Senior Championship final against Donegal in Clones.
There was a blow for Derry early on though when Ryan Bell, who had impressed against Tyrone, went down awkwardly under a challenge after only seven minutes and had to be stretchered off with what looked a nasty injury.
His replacement was Steelstown's 18- year old forward, getting his second taste of the senior inter-county game following a second half cameo in Derry's opening McKenna Cup tie.
The Lumen Christi College student didn't look out of place in that game before Christmas and proceeded to enhance his growing reputation further with the game's opening goal in the 20th minute of an opening half that needed seven minutes of injury time.
Fermanagh adopted the defensive approach which had served them so well last season, Tom Clarke often the lone target men with others expected to join in if and when the Erne County managed to turn over the ball.
Damian McErlain kept McCarron and Enda Lynn as the two men inside with the triumvirate of Conor McAtamney, Padraig Cassidy and especially Emmet Bradley, the platform from which Derry dominated the opening 25 minutes.
Bradley scored the game's opening point on 13 minutes after that lengthy injury delay and the score signalled a very impressive period for the Oak Leafers. Indeed, they were 0-3 to 0-1 up when McCarron struck his first major.
Lynch's huge kick-out came straight off the training ground. It found McAtamney who flicked on for Padraig Cassidy to release Emmett Bradley. Bradley advanced to draw the covering defenders and find McCarron coming in off the wing. The forward finished with a fierce shot for his first senior Derry goal and he hadn't long to wait for his second.
That opener helped the Oak Leafers to a 1-07 to 1-04 interval lead which should have been more comprehensive. It wasn't because of one lapse of concentration which allowed Conor McGee to excellently send Ryan Lyons through to finish low into the corner of the net to ensure only three points separated the sides at the break.
The second half was end to end stuff with both sides visibly wilting in the energy sapping conditions.
Derry were leading 1-08 to 1-05 after a beautiful Enda Lynn point when McCarron sneaked in behind the Fermanagh defence for the second time in the game. The outcome was the same as the first with McCarron finishing emphatically to put the visitors into the driving seat.
However, any celebrations were cut short seconds later though when Lynn received his second booking of the game for what looked an innocuous challenge, Monaghan referee Martin McNally probably feeling the pressure of sustained Fermanagh complaints about earlier Derry challenges.
Dougan should have helped himself to a first Derry goal minutes later when he combined with Bradley but McGrath produced a superb save and worse than the miss was to follow when Emmett Bradley got a black card in the ensuing scramble that followed McGrath's stop.
Suddenly finding themselves down to 13, things hopes were hit once more when Lynch conceded a penalty from which Darragh McGurn brought Fermanagh back to 2-8 to 2-5 with still 15 minutes remaining.
Reeling from three quick body blows in succession, Derry needed inspiration and McCarron provided it again.
Cassidy was fouled in midfield and with Fermanagh arguing, Christopher Bradley had the intelligence to pick out McCarron with a quick free. Ryan Jones was all over him but McCarron, who had been down with cramp seconds earlier, managed to hook a lovely chipped finish over McGrath as he fell to give Derry a lead they never looked like losing.
It was fairytale stuff for McCarron and a great opening to 2019 for Derry but it will be back to the grindstone on Wednesday in Owenbeg for the visit of Jordanstown.
Derry scorers: Ben McCarron (3-1), Emmett Bradley (0-2, 1f), Enda Lynn (0-2), Padriag McGrogan (0-1), Christopher Bradley (0-3, 2f),
Fermanagh scorers: Ryan Lyons (1-0), Kevin McDonnell (0-2); Darragh McGurn (1-3, 1 pen, 2f), Kane Connor (0-1), Garvan Jones (0-2, 1f),
Fermanagh: James McGrath, Kevin McDonnell, Tiarnan Daly, Cian McManus; Kane Connor, Lee Cullen, Ultan Kelm; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones; Aidan Breen, Ryan Lyons, Ciaran Corrigan; Daniel Teague, Tom Clarke, Darragh McGurn.
(Subs) Conor McGee for D Teague, 19mins; James McMahon for R Lyons; Daniel Teague for A Breen, 53mins; Garvan Jones for T Daly, 58mins; Jonathan Cassidy for D McGurn, 66mins;
Yellow card: D Teague, 14mins; E Donnelly, 37mins; K McDonnell, 39mins;
Derry: Odhran Lynch; Eoghan Concannon, Conor Mulholland, Sean Quinn; Ryan Dougan, Eamon McGill, Jason Rocks; Conor McAtamney, Padraig Cassidy; Patrick Coney, Christopher Bradley, Padraig McGrogan; Ryan Bell, Emmett Bradley, Enda Lynn.
(Subs): Ben McCarron for R Bell (inj), 11mins; Ciaran McFaul for J Rocks, HT; Declan Hughes for C McAtamney, 42mins; Simon McErlain for B McCarron, 63mins; Sean McKeever for R Dougan 65mins
Yellow Card: C McAtamney , 30mins; E Lynn, 39mins; C McFaul, 52mins; E Concannon, 69mins;
Black Card: E Bradley, 52mins;
Red Card: E Lynn, 45mins;
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)