Dr. McKenna Cup semi-final
The Bell tolls for Cavan
Steven Doherty reports from the Athletic Grounds
DERRY progressed to their first McKenna Cup final since 2012 when they defeated Cavan by seven points at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Opponents Cavan were no match for Damian Barton’s side who cut the
Breffni men open countless times with the holy trinity of pace, passion
and precision. Ryan Bell, who finished with 1-5, claimed the ‘man of the match’ award and while the Ballinderry man was once again excellent for Derry, he was well backed up by clinical supporting cast of Derry forwards who prised open the opposition at will.
It may very well be ‘blue Monday’ the following day - scientifically proven to be the most depressing day of the year – but there will be a pep in the step and
plenty to smile about in the Oak Leaf county as Derry look forward to another crack at Tyrone this Saturday for the first of the year’s silverware.
The McKennas may not bother with this competition these days, nor do the cynics and bandwagon-jumpers, but for the die-hards, the loyal band of Derry supporters who follow their county through good times and bad, the McKenna Cup has been a like a warm embracing hug in the chilly January air.
Of course, it’s still only January. Bigger and bolder battles lie ahead.
The National League throws-in in less than a fortnight, while the Ulster
Championship is months away yet. Those are the battlefields Damian
Barton team will be ultimately judged, but be under no illusion Derry are an absolute joy to watch in these early, shadow-boxing rounds.
They'll run out at the same venue in four days time, this time as underdogs
to face a well-oiled Tyone team that will look to win this competition for the for the fifth time in succession. Micky Harte's team are the seasoned silverware contenders of the two, but whatever way the result goes, Damian Barton has Derry going in the right direction.
Barton once again shuffled his cards and sent out his fourth different captain, this time James Kielt, in four games. Other than that it was more of the same from the Oak Leaf county.
AS he has done throughout January, Damian Barton made ten changes to the side that out-worked Queen’s in their mid-week win. Gareth McKinless, Brendan Rogers and Cailean O’Boyle were all co-opted from their universities and made starts. All three excelled, and handed the Derry management yet another positive from a competition that has been little more than a nuisance in years gone by.
Derry, looking so much slicker and quicker than their opponents, led by seven at the break and were well worth it. For 17 minutes the two sides went score for score with nothing between them at four points apiece.
After that the Oak Leaf county assumed almost complete control.
Enda Lynn and Danny Heavron, showing serious levels of fitness and hunger, drove continuously at the heart of the Cavan defence and found the Breffni men wanting.
Ryan Bell converted his fourth penalty of the season in the 19th minute when rampaging half back Gareth McKinless was fouled in the Cavan box as he bore down on goal and readied the trigger.
Bell, carrying on from where he left on in his previous McKenna Cup
outings was the pick of the Derry attackers and knocked over 1-4 in the
opening 35 minutes. But Bell wasn’t alone. Cailean O’Boyle, making his first start of 2016 for Derry was a ready recipient for much of Derry’s high ball in, while James Kielt and Conor Kearns also raised the white flag.
At midfield Emmet Bradley and Brendan Rogers covered some serious
yards, while Derry were exceptional winning seven of Thomas Mallon’s first half kick-outs.
Shane Heavron once again carried out the sweeping duties with some aplomb while Chrissy McKaigue’s positioning and aggression were vital components for Damian Barton at the back.
Cavan manager Terry Hyland rang the changes at the break and the extra experience and fresh legs gave the Breffni men the jolt they needed.
But, improved as they were, Cavan never really looked like reeling Derry back in. Scores from Danny Heavron, Ryan Bell and Cailean O’Boyle stretched Derry to a 1-14 to 0-08 advantage.
Killian Clarke’s 52nd minute goal could have offered Cavan an unlikely route back into the game, but Derry defended well when the pressure was ratcheted up by Cavan.
Offensively, Derry created much more than their opponents. However, they were guilty of a series of wides and missed chances throughout the second half. Mark Craig’s point on the hour mark brought an end to that unwelcome run of misses, and further points from Shane Heavron and Emmet Bradley confirmed the win for a visibly tiring Derry.
Derry: Ryan Bell 1-5, Enda Lynn 0-2, Emmet Bradley 0-2, Cailean O’Boyle 0-2 (0-1f), James Kielt 0-2 (0-1f), Conor Kearns 0-1, Danny Heavron 0-1, Mark Craig 0-1, Shane Heavron 0-1f
Cavan: Jack Brady 0-3f, Killian Clarke 1-0, Conor Moynagh 0-2, Gearoid McKiernan 0-2, Eugene Keating 0-1f, Seanie Johnston 0-1
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Joshua Hayes, Feargal Flanagan, Padraig Faulkner, Ciaran Brady, Conor Moynagh, Niall Murray, Killian Clarke, Brian Sankey, Barry Doyle, David Givney, Enda Henry, Jack Brady, Gearoid McKiernan, Paul O’Connor
Subs: Michael Argue for B Doyle (31), Niall McDermott for E Henry (H/T), Eugene Keating for J Hayes (H/T), Killian Brady for J Hayes (H/T)
Derry: Thomas Mallon, Ciaran Mullan, Dermot McBride, Ryan Ferris, Gareth McKinless, Chrissy McKaigue, Danny Heavron, Brendan Rogers, Emmet Bradley, Benny Heron, James Kielt, Enda Lynn, Conor Kearns, Ryan Bell, Cailean O’Boyle
Subs: Karl McKaigue for R Ferris (28), Shane Heavron for C Kearns (46), Mark Craig for G McKinless (50), Conor Murphy for C O’Boyle (53), Oisin Duffy for B Heron (61), Christopher Bradley for J Kielt (65)
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)
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