Category: Archive

Derry make comeback to take league title

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

So, often, no one is ever that sure who is up for the league, and who is simply using the games as preparation for the summer. However, to Derry’s credit, they’ve been one of the few who’ve made so secret of their annual drive to annex the title, and watching their players celebrate at Parnell Park, it was clear how much victory meant.
The looks on their faces also had something to do with the fact that they’d just dispatched Kerry who had come into last Sunday’s final as warm favorites. There was no doubt a satisfaction as well about the manner of their win as this was one of the most startling comebacks ever at the business end of the competition.
Out of the traps like greyhounds, Kerry were seven points up in no time as Kieran Donaghy created his own brand of havoc in the Derry defense, and at that stage, the result looked a foregone conclusion. Then somehow, from somewhere, Kerry lost their momentum, Derry regrouped, and by full-time that seven-point advantage had become an 11-point deficit as the game was turned on its head.
“Ah, I thought we were going to be hammered,” said the Derry coach, Paddy Crozier. “For the first 15 or 20 minutes, we didn’t get out of the blocks.” Donncha Walsh struck for Kerry’s first goal as early as the second minute, and Darren O’Sullivan soon added another to make it 2-4 to 0-3. At that point, hardly anyone from either county at Parnell Park would’ve disagreed with Crozier.
Derry had to change something, and with Darragh O Se and Seamus Scanlon ruling the roost at midfield, Enda Muldoon was deployed to reclaim some lost ground, and his presence soon lead to Fergal Doherty picking up a lot more possession.
The shift began with Doherty’s goal and then Paddy Bradley got in on the act with a couple of scores to leave Derry only trailing by two at the break. Critically, Conleth Gilligan pounced for another goal soon after half-time, and amazingly, Derry had a lead they never relinquished.
Niall McCusker, who had replaced the winners’ injured captain, Kevin McCloy, before the start, stuck to his task impressively while Muldoon went on to play a key role as Derry surged clear before Bradley ended the afternoon on a high note with a spectacular point from a sideline kick.
“We’ll head home, lick our wounds and prepare for the championship,” said Kerry manager, Pat O’Shea. “We could’ve taken more chances early on, but we have no complaints.”
As for Derry, when the celebrations of a sixth league title subside, they will turn their sights to an Ulster championship clash with Donegal in early June.
Meanwhile, the Division Two football title went to a highly-motivated Westmeath side who were full value for their 0-15 to 0-10 victory over depleted Dublin at Navan. Missing nine players due to suspensions following the recent controversial game against Meath, Dublin had an opportunity to measure the strength of their panel, and the result was not a positive one.
“No comment,” said manager Paul Caffrey revealingly afterwards. His shadow team made a decent start and led by 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval, however, it was generally downhill from there as Martin Flanagan and Donal O’Donoghue took control of midfield for the winners.
With Dublin only managing to score once in the final half hour, Westmeath surged clear as Dermot Bannon and Denis Glennon made important contributions in the forwards. The performance augurs well for their Leinster championship clash with Longford in just over a week’s time, while Dublin have just over five weeks before they hit the championship trail.
There was some joy at last for the footballers of Wexford as they took the Division Three title following a tense extra-time victory over Fermanagh by 3-15 to 0-20 at Parnell Park. A goal in the first period of extra-time by Ciaran Lyng proved crucial as Wexford won their first piece of national silverware in 63 years.
Offaly wrapped up the Division Four title with a convincing 2-13 to 0-12 win over Tipperary at O’Moore Park where the outstanding Niall McNamee kicked six points from play and had a hand in both his team’s goals.

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