By Jackie Cahill
SUBSTITUTE Eimear O’Doherty popped over what proved to be the winning score for Derry with eight minutes remaining in a low-scoring TG4 All-Ireland junior football championship semi-final on Sunday.
Derry advanced to a final showdown with Ulster rivals Fermanagh on September 24 – but they’ll start as rank outsiders.
Fermanagh have already beaten Derry four times this year – three times in the championship and once in a League fixture – and when the counties last met, 15 points was the gap.
But Derry have given themselves a shot at glory after coming through the Carlow semi-final challenge with just a point to spare at the Lannleiere Pavilion.
Carlow had late chances to take the game to extra-time as Derry, who lost Katie Holly to the sin-bin with five minutes left, hung on grimly.
But Orlagh Hickey and Rachel Saywer were both off-target – and Derry advanced to their first junior decider since 2008.
The sides were level at 0-4 apiece at half-time – and Derry did enough playing against a slight breeze in the second period.
O’Doherty’s winning score, in the 52nd minute, was the first time they’d taken the lead in the entire game, but they managed to see it out from there.
Carlow went three points up early on with scores from Hayden, Rachel Sawyer and Aoibhinn Gilmartin, but Derry were level before the break.
It took the Oak Leafers until the 18th minute before they opened their account, when Emma Doherty popped over a free.
Megan Devine slotted over from play to put Derry just a point adrift and they were level when Doherty was on target with another free three minutes before half-time.
Hayden struck again to edge Carlow in front but the scores were level when Ciara Moore pointed for Derry late in the first half.
Carlow were back in front when Hayden scored her third point of the game five minutes into the second half – but that would prove to be the final score of the game for the Barrowsiders.
Doherty’s 43rd minute free levelled matters – before O’Doherty, who’d come off the bench with ten minutes left, made an almost immediate impact.
Her point was good enough to take Derry to Croke Park – but they’ll be up against it when they tackle favourites Fermanagh.
Scorers for Derry – E Doherty 0-3f, C Moore, M Devine & E O’Doherty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Carlow – E Hayden 0-3, A Gilmartin & R Sawyer 0-1 each.
Derry – C Mackey; A McGeogh, D Donnelly, C Glass; N Browne, K Holly, D Kivlehan; A Laverty, E Doherty; J Donnelly, C Moore, E Doherty; A Crozier, M Devine, C McGurk.
Sub – E O’Doherty for Crozier (50).
Carlow – N Hanley; A Dowling, A Dooley, N Forde; M Dermody, E Atkinson, L Mullins; S Ruth, C Mullins; L Barry, A Gilmartin, E Hayden; R Sawyer, E Ware, M Hayden.
Subs – C Ni She for M Hayden (40), O Hickey for Ware (48), O Fitzpatrick for Dermody (56), M O’Sullivan for Mullins (59), G Murphy for Ruth (59).
Ref – D Carolan (Down).