Five-star Derry batter the Banner to reach last four
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Derry 5-13 Clare 2-8
DERRY have booked their spot in the All-Ireland semi-finals for the first time since 2004 after an empathic and convincing win over Clare.
Following an Ulster title that even the biggest of Oak Leaf dreamers scarcely saw coming, Rory Gallagher’s men went into their final eight encounter with their Division Two counterparts as favourites for the first time in this championship campaign.
But although they took a while to break the Clare resilience in Ennis five months ago in the League, Derry had this game all but over after 15 minutes.
Both sides hit early wides before a Niall Loughlin free opened the scoring inside six minutes.
Derry dealt the first of several big blows three minutes later when a loose Tristan O’Callaghan kick-out found its way to Benny Heron to rifle to the net.
That was followed by a slick team move down the left that ended with Conor Glass firing home another clinical finish.
An Eoin Cleary free settled Clare nerves, but three scores from Shane McGuigan and a monstrous point from Glass kept the board ticking over.
It was past the half hour mark when Jamie Malone curled over Clare’s second score for 2-6 to 0-2, but McGuigan answered back.
The Banner had something of a lifeline when Ciaran Russell set up Pearse Lillis to fire beyond Odhran Lynch, but after a Cleary point it was Derry who finished the half on a high when Paul Cassidy sent a rocket of a shot to the top right corner – 3-6 to 1-3 at the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Derry picked up where they left off when Gareth McKinless finished off a fine solo run from the ’45 to the back of the net for a fourth Oak Leaf major.
Points from Heron and Conor McCluskey came before another goal burst when Eoin Cleary took advantage of a loose ball to slide past the onrushing Odhran Lynch, but Derry went straight down the other end and netted off the boot of McGuigan – 5-8 to 2-3.
Cassidy, Cleary (0-3), McGuigan (0-2) and David Tubridy all split the posts as Derry comfortably held their spirited opponents at arm’s length.
Niall Toner twice set up McGuigan for scores as the formality of the final whistle crept ever closer and Rory Gallagher was serenaded by the Hill 16 ultras.
A Tubridy free ended the scoring but there was no doubt that this was Derry’s day!
Scorers for Derry: S McGuigan (1-8, 0-1 free), C Glass (1-1), B Heron (1-1), P Cassidy (1-1), G McKinless (1-0), N Loughlin (0-1), C McCluskey (0-1)
Scorers for Clare: E Cleary (1-5, 0-2 frees), P Lillis (1-0), J Malone (0-1), D Tubridy (0-2 frees)
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, C McCluskey, S Downey; C Doherty, G McKinless, P McGrogan; C Glass, B Rogers; P Cassidy, N Toner, E Doherty; B Heron, S McGuigan, N Loughlin.
Subs: E Bradley for B Heron (48), L Murray for N Loughlin (53), B McCarron for C Glass (61), P McNeill for S Downey (66), D Cassidy for S McGuigan (68)
Clare: T O’Callaghan; M Doherty, C Brennan, C Rouine; C O’Dea, C Russell, J Malone; D O’Neill, C O’Connor; P Lillis, E Cleary, E McMahon; P Collins, K Sexton, A Griffin.