The home side raced into a 1-6 to no score lead inside 15 minutes with midfielder Emmett Bradley tapping home the goal in the 12th minute from Niall Toner’s centre.
Offaly looked disjointed and it appeared Derry would cruise to victory. But the Faithful County rallied impressively, three times bringing the deficit back to two points before a red card for full-forward Anton Sullivan finally ended their hopes.
“I don’t think there is any denying that we are relieved,” explained McErlain, “We knew that it was a big game but the whole thing is a work in progress. It is all about progressing. We are working to try and get things together and it’s great to get off the mark.”
With difficult underfoot conditions, the game was never going to be one for the purists but Derry’s ability to introduce the likes of Mark Lynch and James Kielt in the second half kept the visitors at arm’s length.
“The start cost us,” admitted Offaly manager Stephen Wallace, “You’re always going to struggle from there but I’m proud of the lads because they kept at it. We chipped away but we were always going to be facing an uphill battle against a nine-point lead.
“It is what it is. The boys are learning and I will say it again, a lot of these guys are experiencing this level for the first time. They are young, naive maybe. Derry ran at them and it was like being hit by a juggernaut but they never panicked. They stuck to the plan and with a bit of luck we might have nicked a goal in the second half and it is a different game.”
The result leaves Offaly marooned at the bottom of the division and deep in relegation trouble. Derry meanwhile will seek to build on the result when they travel to high-flying Fermanagh next weekend.
“Fermanagh are going well,” added McErlain, “That’s three wins in a row now for them. They are well organised under Rory Gallagher and they will know us well. They know our players and, likewise, we know theirs. It will be a real battle in Brewster Park.”
Derry 1-15, Offaly 0-13
E Bradley (1-5, 3 freees); E Lynn (0-3); N Toner (0-2, 1 free); M Bateson, T O’Brien, M Lynch, D Tallon, J Kielt (0-1 each).
N Dunne (0-7, 5 free); D Hogan, B Allen (1 free) (0-2 each); B O’Dea, S Tierney (0-1 each).
O Hartin; M McEvoy, K Johnston, R Mooney; M Bateson, C McWilliams, C Doherty; C McAtamney, E Bradley; P McGrogan, E Lynn, B Heron; P Hagan, T O’Brien, N Toner.
D Tallon for M Bateson (HT); M Lynch for P Hagan (42); J Kielt for B Heron (42); A Bradley for M McEvoy (70)
B Rohan; D Hogan, P McConway, D Brady; D Dempsey, S Pender, N Darby; P Cunnigham, C Dunne; B O’Dea, M Brazil, S Nally; B Allen, A Sullivan, N Dunne.
J Hayes for S McNally (Black Card) (19mins); J Lalor for D Brady (29); C Carroll for B O’Dea (HT); S Tierney for C Dunne (HT); S Doyle for J Hayes (67)
John Gilmartin (Sligo).