Derry give Dubs the second half they wanted, and pay

Allianz Football League Division Two final: Derry 0-11 Dublin 4-6

THERE will be a fair amount of scoreboard analysis done on this game. Some of it will stand up. Other parts are maybe best to avoid.

Dublin’s four-goal haul will be presented as evidence of them rediscovering the goalscoring touch that has deserted them. It’s half true. Only they hadn’t stopped scoring goals when teams presented them gift-wrapped. In the second half, Derry put a bow around three for them.

The Ulster champions were at home in the first half. Feet up, shoes off at times.

Dublin couldn’t play through them at all. Conor McCluskey had Con O’Callaghan tied up. True to the form of their league campaign to date, the Dubs ran into bodies and spat the ball up. They kicked wides and panicked on the ball. It was not an unpredictable pattern.

As a result, Dublin only had four points at half-time. The 2019 Leinster final against Meath, when they had 0-5 at the break, is the nearest comparable.

Dublin ended that summer as All-Ireland champions. If they can get into leads and make teams chase them then there’s a chance that might happen again.

This game, as the whole league has, suggests they’re in with a chance if they can force teams out of a defensive setup. They’re still lethal on the break. No team goes as hard at the opposition from turnovers, something Derry might learn from.

Three of their four first-half points came from that. One would have been a Tom Lahiff goal only for the left-behind left leg of Odhran Lynch spooning the rocket up and over into the Hill.

Those few counter-attacks aside, they weren’t hurting Derry. Bear in mind the Ulster side had a reshaped defence without injured pair Chrissy McKaigue and Eoin McEvoy in their full-back line. Both will be ready for Fermanagh in 12 days’ time.

That reshuffle meant Ethan Doherty had to go to wing-back. That was the real big impact. Their attack missed him. Clearly they had noted that at half-time and pushed him into the half-forward line. In one pop pass in behind for Brendan Rogers that almost opened a goal chance, you saw it.

But he had no real chance to influence matters in the second half because Derry got overwhelmed.

Where they fell down was not putting the game away in the first period. They had two really good goal chances.

Ben McCarron’s low effort blocked by Michael Fitzsimons and Niall Loughlin was denied, again, by David O’Hanlon’s boot, just as he was in Celtic Park.

“We found out we’re still not putting up enough scores when we should,” said Rory Gallagher when asked what he’d learned about his own team from it.

“A lot of the games we’ve played over the last couple of years, we’ve run away with them. Our lack of clinical edge hasn’t been found out,” he admitted.

The combination of the first goal and Conor Glass going off with a nipped hamstring within seconds of each other gave Dublin the platform.

O’Gara’s goal was a clear square ball. He had been standing in the small square from well before Brian Fenton’s shot that dropped short was kicked. He actually made his run across goal from inside the square. The umpires never flinched.

Derry still kicked two of the next three points and were level at 1-5 to 0-8.

Then they got caught by a long ball that O’Callaghan won in behind. He drove hard at McCluskey, who was forced to foul him enough that Liam Devenney wasn’t troubled by spreading his arms for the penalty.

Paul Mannion was even less troubled by rifling it into the bottom corner with his first touch.

Beyond that the game got broken up and stretched. And like in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, Derry didn’t have the attacking answers when they had to chase it.

Derry were all over the place in defence and two minutes after the penalty, Tom Lahiff cut through them like a downhill skier, laying on for John Small to slam into the roof of Lynch’s net.

The fourth came late on, with Lynch badly misreading Lorcan O’Dell’s scuffed strike, flagging it wide and letting it drop into the corner of the net, bringing back memories of Bernard Brogan’s much-better-hit goal in 2014.

Yet of Dublin’s starting forward line, Killian O’Gara got 1-1 and Tom Lahiff got a point. None of the others scored.

This was not the hammering the bare scoreline suggests.

Paul Cassidy, playing two days after the death of his grandfather and Bellaghy legend Harry, was Derry’s best player. He kept on driving right to the last.

The first half was a game Derry would win most days. The second half was a game Dublin would win 99 times out of 100.

You still can’t give Dublin the game they want to play.

That’s the lesson for Derry, and others.


Derry: O Lynch; P McGrogan (0-1 45), C Doherty, C McCluskey; Padraig Cassidy, G McKinless, E Doherty; C Glass (0-1), B Rogers; N Toner (0-1 free), S McGuigan (0-6, 0-3 frees), Paul Cassidy (0-2); B Heron, B McCarron, N Loughlin

Subs: L Murray for McCarron (34), S Downey for Glass (38), M Downey for Heron (56), E McEvoy for McGrogan (67), N O’Donnell for Rogers (73)

Blood sub: N O’Donnell for E Doherty (46-51)

Yellow cards: None

Dublin: D O’Hanlon; M Fitzsimons, J Small (1-1), D Newcombe; C Murphy, D Byrne, L Gannon (0-1); J McCarthy, B Fenton (0-1); T Lahiff (0-1), C Basquel, S Bugler; K O’Gara (1-1), D Rock, C O’Callaghan

Subs: C Kilkenny (0-1) for Rock (8), P Mannion (1-0) for O’Gara (44), L O’Dell (1-0) for Basquel (44), N Scully for Lahiff (55)

Yellow cards: T Lahiff (39), J Small (47)

Referee: L Devenney (Mayo)