Bradley has final say for Derry

Derry 0-13 Limerick 0-09

And those that stayed away didn’t really miss much.

Those that did come will be able to say they saw the final game Limerick footballers played under Liam Kearns.

However, aside from 15 minutes in the middle of the second half, this performance didn’t reflect the strides Shannonside football has made under the Kerryman. He deserved a better send-off.

Briefly in the second half it looked like they might spring a surprise. Muiris Gavin, once again flawless from placed balls, levelled the game at 0-9 each with a free in the 56th minute.

When Mark Lynch curled a free over from the left wing in the 49th minute, Derry were three points ahead and cruising, but in the next seven minutes Limerick managed to claw their way back into a game they rarely looked like winning.

Step forward Paddy Bradley. Derry might depend on their gifted forward a little too much, but when he displays the form he did in the final 10 minutes yesterday, there is little wrong with that.

It was his free two minutes later that shook his team from their lethargy, while his excellent side-line kick in the 62nd minute finally extinguished the Limerick challenge.

Playing with a considerable breeze in the first half, the Shannonsiders lacked the conviction and confidence to make it count and were two points down at the break at 0-6 to 0-4. Only Gavin’s accurate place-kicking kept them in touch, and they had hit five wides before Stephen Kelly opened their account in the 15th minute.

In fairness, they came up against one of the most solid defensive walls currently playing the game. There isn’t a better full-back at present than Kevin McCloy, a point he emphasised again.

Alongside him, Kevin McGuickin continues to grow in confidence, while in front Sean Marty Lockhart typically did little wrong.

Lockhart was the spur for the first score of the game, releasing Gavin Donaghy after a powerful surge through the middle. But as ever, it was his defensive solidity that was the most eye-catching aspect of his game (apart from the inadvertent shoulder he gave John Bannon in the 22nd minute that saw the official replaced at half-time).

The withdrawal of Enda Muldoon before throw-in never affected Derry.

They had already scored three times before Kelly opened Limerick’s account, Paul McFlynn’s searing run and score in the seventh minute particularly memorable.

Although Gavin kept Limerick within sight with his frees, by the end of the opening quarter it was beginning to look like this Limerick team would fail another important examination.

Apart from that seven-minute spell when Gavin brought them back to parity, Limerick never expressed themselves yesterday, and the over-dependency on him will be the most pressing issue for whomever steps in the footprints left by Kearns.

Despite the absence of the imposing Fergal Doherty, Derry controlled matters around the middle. Ostensibly a forward, Johnny McBride used his mobility to great effect in midfield, providing a more than able foil to Pasty Bradley’s high fielding.

While they left talking about Paddy Bradley, it was the performance of his younger brother Eoin, and Lynch, that will have most pleased Mickey Moran. Derry started this game with only two recognised forwards on the bench.

Eoin Bradley nailed three superb points, although his final score came in the 66th minute when Limerick were already contemplating a summer off.

Limerick played to something like their potential mid-way through the second half. However, the feeling was that Derry could always raise a gear when they needed to. And so it proved.

If the classy Fergal Doherty returns to full fitness, they will be an even greater force when they meet one of those losing provincial finalist. A force that most teams will want to avoid.

Scorers for Derry: Paddy Bradley (0-6, 4 frees, 1 s-l), E Bradley(0-3), M Lynch (0-2, 1 free), G Donaghy, P McFlynn (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick: M Gavin (0-8, 7 frees), S Kelly (0-1).

DERRY: B Gillis; K McGuickin, K McCloy, M Kelly, F McEldowney, S M Lockhart, P McFlynn; Patsy Bradley, J McBride; P Murphy, E Bradley, G Donaghy, M Lynch, Paddy Bradley, C Devlin.

Subs: G O’Kane for Kelly (h-t), C Gilligan for McEldowney (58 mins), P Wilson for McFlynn (69 mins).

LIMERICK: S O’Donnell; T Stack, C Mullane, J McCarthy, P Browne, S Lucey, M O’Riordan; J Quane, J Galvin; S Kelly, M Gavin, S Buckley, C Fitzgerald, M Reidy, M Crowley.

Subs: J Donovan for Reidy, J Stokes for Quane (both h-t), M O’Brien for Buckley (59 mins).

Referee: J Bannon (Longford); replacement for second half: M Daly (Mayo).

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