After last Saturday night in Croke Park, all manner of debate was had up and down the country about the tactics employed by Derry against Dublin.
They only scored 0-4, which Brian McIver admitted “won’t win you many games of football.” So this week, they set about working on the attacking side of their game.
2-15 yesterday, 2-9 of it from play, was the reward.
Much has been said about the undeniable part Derry played in such a horrid spectacle as the game against Dublin but the real reason behind it was largely ignored.
Derry sat 15 men behind the ball but when they had it, Dublin did exactly the same. It led to the stalemate which produced just 12 scores in 70 minutes.
Paul Kerrigan’s superb 23rd minute score yesterday saw the two sides at a poorly-attended Owenbeg clash – where there were just 909 paying spectators — surpass that tally in just under a third of the time.
Cork came out and tried to press Derry into submission. They pushed up on Eoin McNicholl’s kickouts and, while that did bring them a bit of joy in that sector, it meant that their hosts had space to play in as well.
All that served to do was let Derry, and particularly Enda Lynn, off the leash. The Greenlough man, who also netted twice in last year’s clash between the sides in Pairc Úi Rinn, was superb and was rewarded with a haul of 2-3.
The two goals came in the final quarter and rewarded the best performance of the season to date from Brian McIver’s side.
They’d fallen behind inside a minute to a Daniel Goulding point and that was added to when Donal Óg Hodnett found a gap in the Derry defence and fed Stephen O’Donoghue, who rifled low into the bottom corner.
Goulding hit a superb score to stretch the lead to the widest it got in Cork’s favour, 1-2 to 0-1, but the attacking side of Derry’s game was vastly improved and they kept pace with the Rebels.
The first half was score for score, and some of them beauties. Paul Kerrigan, standing still, planted one straight between the posts from 45 yards, while at the other end Kevin Johnston made a tremendous supporting run and calmly slotted over midway through the half.
Benny Heron ought to have found the net for the hosts on 19 minutes but from Michael McIver’s pass, he blasted wide of Ken O’Halloran’s goal from 12 yards.
He did make amends with the final score of the half from a 45’, but Brian Cuthbert’s side still held the aces, leading by three.
They managed to hold Derry at arm’s length in the early throes of the second period, with another stunning score from Kerrigan helping them lead by 1-9 to 0-10 after 45 minutes.
After Eoin Bradley had reduced the gap to a point, Mark Lynch fed a great pass to Lynn and he burst through to lash emphatically into the corner.
Full-back Niall Holly surged up to add to the lead before, on the hour mark, Lynn combined with Michael McIver and palmed home the Ballinderry man’s cross to put Derry 2-12 to 1-9 ahead.
Cork threatened to rally and Brian Hurley had a chance but, with Oisin Duffy pressurising, his shot was well saved at the near post by Eoin McNicholl.
That was as close as they came to clawing it back, with a late score from John O’Rourke and a Colm O’Neill free were mere consolation.
It wasn’t enough to save them from defeat and victory wasn’t enough to save Derry from being relegated alongside neighbours Tyrone.
Brian Cuthbert didn’t seem unduly concerned by the lack of success they enjoyed against Derry’s massed defence, pointing rightly to the 0-17 they’d scored in Healy Park as ample evidence that they can cope when faced with such demands. Next weekend comes the ultimate test, against those who invented it and have perfected it over four years. Derry’s week old system was troublesome but there were glimmers in the first half for an understrength Cork. The fledgling nature of Derry’s new style was evident as Cork were able to still find their inside forward line despite the presence of two, and sometimes three, sweepers.
Kerrigan and Goulding caused bother and both kicked magnificent efforts in those opening 35 minutes, but the overall wides tally of 14 highlighted a wastefulness too.
John O’Rourke did himself no harm, while Michael Shields was a real rock at full-back, but Cork faded badly on the whole after half-time.
But Donegal, rather than Derry, will provide the ultimate test of what lessons they’ve learnt since last summer.
E Lynn 2-3, B Heron 0-3 (0-1 45’), M Lynch 0-2f, J Kielt 0-2f, Eoin Bradley 0-2 (1f), N Holly 0-1, K Johnston 0-1, E McGuckin 0-1.
S O’Donoghue 1-0, P Kerrigan 0-3, D Goulding 0-3, J O’Rourke 0-1, M Collins 0-1, C Dorman 0-1, J Hayes 0-1f, C O’Neill 0-1f.
E McNicholl; O Duffy, N Holly, K Johnston; L McGoldrick, C McAtamney, M McIver; M Lynch, F Doherty; SL McGoldrick, D Heavron, E Lynn; B Heron, T O’Brien, J Kielt.
Eoin Bradley for O’Brien (40), E McGuckin for Kielt (52), M Sweeney for Holly (56), Emmet Bradley for Doherty (56), A McAlynn for L McGoldrick (60), C Murphy for Lynn (65).
K O’Halloran; N Galvin, M Shields, D Óg Hodnett; Tomás Clancy, S O'Donoghue, C Dorman; K O’Driscoll, P Kelly; J O’Rourke, M Collins, B O’Driscoll; D Goulding, P Kerrigan, J Hayes.
F Goold for Kelly (30), P O’Shea for O’Halloran (HT), J Loughery for Galvin (45), B Hurley for Goulding (57), C O’Neill for Hayes (57), C O’Driscoll for O’Donoghue (59).
C Reilly (Meath)