Ciaran Devlin scored two goals against Ballinascreen. (Pic: Mary K Burke)
Two goals from Ciaran Devlin and a vital late save from Thomas Mallon saw Loup eke out an opening round win over Ballinascreen on Thursday night at Owenbeg.
O'NEILL'S DERRY SFC ROUND 1
It was the classic tale of two halves. The winners, after an early penalty, were playing all the football against a Ballinascreen team playing with the shackles on.
After the break, with Ryan Doyle, Marty Bradley and Ronan Murphy opting for a more direct running game from deep, they worked themselves back into the game.
Despite a second Loup goal from the excellent Ciaran Devlin, 'Screen were looking like the team with all the momentum.
With the gap reduced to two points, Noel Rafferty sliced an easy free wide before Loup went upfield to tag on a score to seal the game.
It was the impact of Ballinascreen's bench that will have Ciaran McElroy pondering for the rest of the campaign. Jon Paul Devlin offered them a spark up front. Conor McGovern nearly found the net with his first involvement, a move that included Barry Grant's final pass.
Loup had the ball over the bar within the first minute, with a point from Caolan Devlin who peeled away from his marker Ruairi McWilliams to score after 48 seconds.
Their defensive shape kept Ballinascreen on the periphery and any fouls were out of the danger-zone and Benny Heron missed his first three frees.
At the other end, Michael McShane was excellent in the Ballinascreen defence, but Loup gobbled up their slow counter-attack.
The one time they added a bit of zip, Aaron Bradley's run opened the door for a Caoilte McAlinden point to level matters after seven minutes.
Loup struck for the first goal two minutes later. Thomas Mallon, successful with all but one of his 15 kick-outs, found Jason Rocks. Paul McVey's pass was won by Anthony O'Neill as a mark.
With Ronan Murphy and Paul Burns out of position, O'Neill dinked the ball to the unmarked Roddy O'Kane who lost the ball with only Ryan Scullion to beat. Paul Burns pushed him on the back and after consulting with his umpire, referee Mervyn McAleese awarded a penalty.
By the letter of the law it was a push, but a stronger one, in the 21st minute, by Ryan Doyle on Glenn Martin in the corner of the pitch went unpunished, making a case for Ballinascreen being aggrieved. Ciaran Devlin made no mistake as he tucked the ball to the net.
Ciaran and Caolan Devlin added points as Loup went 1-3 to 0-1 ahead at the water break.
Benny Heron eventually found his range from a free and added a point from play, after picking up an Anton Scullion pass at end of a move started by a McShane interception in defence.
Marty Bradley fisted over the bar in stoppage time to make the score 1-3 to 0-4 in favour of Loup.
Caolan Devlin opened the second half scoring to leave a goal between the teams once again. In the same move, Ballinascreen goalkeeper Ryan Scullion was lucky to escape a black card. He lost possession and barged Thomas McVey to the ground stopping his run, but was shown yellow by referee McAleese.
It didn't fluster Scullion. He continued his 79 percent kick-out success rate with a pass to Carlus McWilliams that started a move for point by Ronan Murphy after he was picked out by the lively JP Devlin, who added a point himself seconds later and Ballinascreen were back to within a point, 1-4 to 0-6 after 34 minutes.
Loup's performance in the first half was built on the industry of Terence O'Brien and he helped swing the game back in their favour. Adam Cavan won a breaking ball from a Scullion kick-out and O'Brien planted the perfect pass to Ciaran Devlin. After cutting inside, Devlin headed along the end-line before stepping inside and slotting to the net to undo all 'Screen's efforts to get back into the game.
The teams traded points for the next 10 minutes, as Loup were always able to keep their noses in front. With three minutes to go, 'Screen had their chance to save the game. Scullion's kick-out was brilliantly fielded by Conor McGovern on the sideline. After playing the ball, he bolted off goalwards and after taking a return from Grant, he was in on goalkeeper Mallon who denied his low shot.
Ryan Scullion thumped over the resultant '45', but when Rafferty missed the late chance to cut the margin to a single point, Loup punished 'Screen. Terence O'Brien won the kick-out and when Jason Rocks played the ball into Anthony O'Neill, his sweet effort with the outside of his right boot sealed the win.
LOUP: Thomas Mallon; Michael Mulholland, Dominic McVey, Collie McVey; Thomas McVey, Conal McGinley, Jason Rocks; Terence O‘Brien, Paddy Coney; Glenn Martin, Caolan Devlin (0-3, 1f), Paul McVey; Anthony O’Neill (0-2, 1f), Roddy O’Kane, Ciaran Devlin (2-2, 1-0 pen)
SUBS: Adam Canavan for R O'Kane (33), Tiernan Canavan for M Mulholland (50), Paudi McAlynn for G Martin (51), Karl Gallagher for T McVey (56), Aidan McAlynn for P McVey (61)
YELLOW CARDS: P Coney (12), A Canavan (41), G Martin (51)
BALLINASCREEN: Ryan Scullion (0-1‘45); Michael McShane, Ronan Murphy (0-1), Aaron Bradley; Ryan Doyle, Carlus McWilliams, Ruairi McWilliams; Marty Bradley (0-1) Anton Scullion; Conor McKenna, Noel Rafferty (0-2,1f), Caoilte McAlinden (0-1); Benny Heron (0-2,1f), Paul Burns, Gary Conway
SUBS: Jon Paul Devlin (0-2) for G Conway (HT), Ciaran Doyle for C McKenna (36), Barry Grant for R McWilliams (51), Conor McGovern for R Doyle (56), Ronan Devlin for M Bradley (56)
YELLOW CARDS: R Scullion (32), C Doyle (43)
REF: Mervyn McAleese (Drum)
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