An enthralling game, lit up by some outrageously good scores from Derry’s James Kielt, looked finally to be going the way of the visitors when Neil Flynn and Fergal Conway points put them two up going into injury-time.
Defeat would have been harsh on the home side who launched one final attack, substitute Ryan Bell dropping in a high ball toward the visitors’ posts. Kildare keeper Mark Donnellan could not gather properly, McGuckin challenged, getting his fist to the ball to punch home the winner.
Or was it? Tyrone referee Sean Hurson initially signalled a free out before going to consult with his umpire and then reversing his decision and giving the goal, to the consternation of O’Neill.
“I am very disappointed – disappointed with the defeat, but the defeat came as a result of the goal, which disappointed me on two levels,” explained the Kildare manager.
“First, a free was given out and then the referee changes his mind. I’m not taking away from Derry’s victory, but it was a clear foul on the goalkeeper.”
“In fairness, the player [McGuckin] got the ball cleanly – but he followed through and rifled the ’keeper into the net.
“If that was a midfielder catching the ball and fired his opposition to the ground in the middle of the pitch, that’s a free. So why should it not be a free for a goalkeeper?”
Kildare had deservedly led 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time thanks to Chris Healy’s 15th-minute goal following quick thinking at a Neil Fynn free.
Derry regrouped during the interval and backed by both the wind and a superb individual display from James Kielt, hit eight successive scores to turn the game on its head.
Derry assistant manager Brian McGuckin said he was confident the Oak Leafers had one more attack left in them prior to McGuckin’s dramatic intervention.
“Genuinely, I didn’t see any issues with it,” said McGuckin, “It was a high ball in, Emmett contested it. His eyes were on the ball, his fist was on the ball and he put the ball in the back of the net. The umpire was closer to it than any of the rest of us and he was very clear it was a green flag.”
J Kielt (0-9, 5 frees); E McGuckin (1-1); C McWilliams (0-3); N Loughlin (0-2); C McAtamney, E Lynn, D Tallon (0-1 each)
N Flynn (0-5, 4 frees); C Healy (1-0); D Flynn, N Kelly (0-3 each); F Conway (0-2); J Byrne, K Cribben, K Feely, T Moolick (0-1 each).
C McLarnon; N Keenan, C Nevin, P Hagan; N Forester, O Duffin, M McEvoy; C McAtamney; E Lynn, E McGuckin, C McWilliams; D Tallon, N Loughlin, B Heron.
O Hegarty for P Hagan (23), R Bell for D Tallon (65), M Craig for O Duffin (68), G O’Neill for C McWilliams (70)
M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribben; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly (0-3), P Kelly; N Flynn, D Flynn, C Healy.
C McNally for K Cribben (46), E Callaghan for C Healy (57), F Dowling for T Moolick (60), S Ryan for J Byrne (BC, 60), C Hartley for N Flynn (69).
Sean Hurson (Tyrone).