The Derry squad pictured before Sunday's defeat to Monaghan in Inniskeen. (Pic: Fintan McTiernan)
DR McKENNA CUP
It was a losing start for Derry under new manager Rory Gallagher following shoots of hope during Sunday's opener with Monaghan in Inniskeen.
“The first reaction would be disappointment,” he said after the game.
“After a very poor beginning, we looked very nervy and shaky, I think we played very well for the rest of the first-half and the first 15, 17 minutes of the second-half I thought we were really good as well.
“I thought we were in a position to win the game, so it’s disappointing we didn’t push on and do that."
An Aaron Mulligan goal had the Farney side 1-3 to 0-0 ahead after nine minutes as they dominated the midfield exchanges.
Derry didn't panic and worked their way back into the game and a 45th minute Christopher Bradley point had Gallagher's side 0-11 to 1-5 ahead.
Monaghan's impact from the bench was the telling factor. It gave them a freshness and an impetus to get on top of Derry's kick-outs, with Kieran Hughes and Jack McCarron both swinging over two points in the final quarter.
It was a winning return for Seamus 'Banty' McEneaney to the Monaghan hot-seat, with former Tyrone and Down players Peter Donnelly and Conor Laverty both on board, despite the latter's upcoming All-Ireland club semi-final with Kilcoo.
After Derry's disastrous start, Shea Downey looked to have notched the first score of Derry's season but after both umpires failing to decide, referee Hughes ruled it out.
Emmett Bradley opened Derry's account but with Ciaran McFaul and Ryan Bell linking well, Derry went in at the break ahead with a 35 metre free from the Ballinderry man in stoppage time.
Gallagher started with six players from Derry's All-Ireland qualifier against Laois earlier in the year under Damian McErlain, while handing debuts to Eoghan Duffy, Alex Doherty, Oisin McWilliams, Declan Cassidy and former minor captain Downey.
The withdrawal of Niall Loughlin pre-throw-in saw Duffy come in. The Foreglen man played close to a crowded Derry midfield quartet that included Emmett Bradley, Padraig Cassidy and Oisin McWilliams.
Bell and Ben McCarron operated as an inside two with 'Sammy' Bradley positioned at centre-forward, leaving Danny Tallon interchanging.
Monaghan were against the breeze, but it didn't prevent goalkeeper Rory Beggan from retaining all 14 of his first-half kick-outs.
A high ball from Philip Donnelly was plucked by Conor McCarthy to clip the opening score in the first minute. When the Scotstown man had a shot blocked for a '45' his club-mate Rory Beggan banged the kick over the bar with much to spare.
A four man inter-passing move involving effective target-man Gary Mohan allowed Micheál Bannigan to open up a three point gap.
Derry were struggling to get any fluency into their early play and Monaghan bagged a goal after nine minutes. A break from defence was turned over by Colin Walshe and when Aaron Mulligan took a pass from Mohan, he gave 'keeper Mallon no chance.
The Oakleafers began to get to grips with their kick-outs and with Danny Tallon coming deep, he set up a point for Ryan Bell, who gave experienced defender Walshe a torrid time.
With the attacking mark now in vogue, Bell demonstrated the advantage of big man on the edge of the square.
"Ryan has got himself in good nick and worked really hard in pre-season," Gallagher commented after the game. "We have a big expectancy of him, we’d expect him to win those balls – we'd probably expect a bit more from him as well."
McFaul began to take the game to Monaghan and flicked over a point from a testing angle, adding to efforts from Bradley and Bell from a 'Sammy' Bradley long ball.
Derry still needed Conor McCluskey's timely interception to prevent a certain goal and on the half-time break. Darren Hughes' pass to Gary Mohan was expertly robbed by McCluskey.
On the turn of half-time, Declan Cassidy was also in the right place at the right time as Monaghan went on the overlap in search of goal and it helped Derry held a slender interval ahead, 0-8 to 1-4.
Shea Downey played Ben McCarron in for an early second-half point and the Lavey man placed half-time substitute Jack Doherty for a score and Derry were three points ahead.
Downey was getting forward well in the Derry cause and Paudie McGrogan cut out two vital balls intended for Kieran Hughes but Monaghan eventually got on top.
Mulligan added a second free and when he passed to Dessie Ward, the latter leveled the game (1-9 to 0-12) after 55 minutes. It was Jack McCarron that edged Monaghan ahead three minutes later and Monaghan didn't look back.
In stoppage time, Ciaran McFaul and Dermot Malone were both sent to the sin bin but it had no consequence on the game with Monaghan home and dry.
Derry's next game is at home to Donegal in Celtic Park (8.00) on Wednesday, January 8.
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan (0-3, 1 '45', 2f), Ryan O'Toole, Colin Walshe; Conor Boyle; Padraic Keenan, Ryan Wylie, Micheál Bannigan (0-2); Barry McBennett (0-1), Darren Hughes, Dessie Ward (0-2); Aaron Mulligan (1-4, 2f), Andrew Woods, Philip Donnelly; Conor McCarthy (0-1), Gary Mohan.
SUBS: Kieran Hughes (0-2) for G Mohan (HT), Dermot Malone for P Donnelly (42), Jack McCarron (0-2) for A Woods (49), Niall Kearns for D Hughes (56), Karl O'Connell for P Keenan (60).
SIN BIN: D Malone (69).
YELLOW CARDS: D Ward (3), M Bannigan (3), P Donnelly (7), D Hughes (12).
DERRY: Thomas Mallon; Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan; Ryan Dougan; Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Shea Downey, Declan Cassidy, Padraig Cassidy, Emmett Bradley (0-5, 2f), Oisin McWilliams; Danny Tallon, Christopher Bradley (0-1), Eoghan Duffy; Ben McCarron (0-2, 1f), Ryan Bell (0-4, 1f).
SUBS: Jack Doherty (0-1) for O McWilliams (HT), Niall Toner for D Tallon (49), Alex Doherty for B McCarron (55), Conor McAtamney for E Duffy (60).
SIN BIN: C McFaul (70).
REF: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).
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