Hurling & Camogie

Derry boss O'Mullan: We were hanging on at the end

Derry players leave the field following their drawn All-Ireland Intermediate final against Meath at Croke Park
Derry players leave the field following their drawn All-Ireland Intermediate final against Meath at Croke Park

DERRY came within a few inches of losing Sunday’s Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate final.

From most vantage points, Aoife Minogue’s free from under the Hogan Stand four minutes into added time looked to be heading over the bar – but it tailed off near the end and the game ended in a 1-9 to 2-6 draw, meaning the teams will have to meet again in Saturday's replay in Clones.

A relieved Derry boss PJ O’Mullan felt his team were hanging on during the last quarter.

“Áine (McAllister) had a free maybe five minutes from time that she would normally put over, but it drifted wide to the right of the post,” said the Loughgiel man afterwards.

“You just felt at that point that we would be lucky to hold on. We couldn’t get traction at all during the second half.

“We had planned all week that it was going to come down to the wire, but it seemed as if our legs were tied during the second half. We couldn’t get going at all.

“Every wee decision seemed to go against us as well. There were three or four key decisions that went against us in the second half.

“He (referee Barry Nea) gave that free for over-carrying at the end there. It was a tough call against us. Meath just seemed to get easy frees when they had the momentum and it nearly cost us the game in the end.

“But, having said all that, our performance in the second half wouldn’t have been good enough to win us an All-Ireland and we know it.”

Read more:

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While momentum carried Meath close to victory at the end of the game, that same momentum was with Derry in the first half.

“We probably didn’t want to hear the half-time whistle when it came. We were really motoring at the time. Meath couldn’t score and we had maybe scored 1-5 without reply in the 10 minutes before half-time.

“Even for the first 10 minutes of the second half, we were happy enough. We had each scored a point. There were still six or seven points between us and we were more than happy with how things were going.”

“We had mentioned at half-time that Meath wouldn’t be as poor again as they had been in the first half. But when we were holding them so well, it seemed set for us to create a couple of chances midway through the half and wrestle the momentum from them.”

Derry manager PJ O'Mullan before the All-Ireland Intermediate final against Meath
Derry manager PJ O'Mullan before the All-Ireland Intermediate final against Meath

The manager singled out his goalkeeper Niamh Gribbin for special mention. The Lavey girl had stepped between the posts just before the championship began when long-time net-minder Niamh McQuillan picked up an injury. Going into the game, she had conceded just one goal in five outings.

“People don’t realise that the sun was in Niamh’s eyes in the first half. We warmed up at that end and were aware of it. Niamh got her stick to it, but it fell for Meath.

“But don’t forget that she threw her body in front of a sure goal for Minogue towards the end of the first half. Then in the second half, she was excellent… saved a penalty, smothered the rebound.

“When the sliotar came back in, she saved the initial shot and we just didn’t get enough bodies around the ball to stop it going in. It was a scrappy enough goal, I think.”

Derry struggled to get to grips with the change in momentum that the second goal brought.

“We just didn’t get enough ball through the lines to Aoife (Shaw) and Máiréad (McNicholl) in the second half. In the first half, they were causing all sorts of bother.

“Those are areas of the game we need to improve on. We will get a look at the recording of the game and look to improve for the replay.

“The good thing is that we are still in the championship.”