DERRY provided the most compelling evidence for coach Damien Cassidy’s claim that the squad is singing off the same hymn sheet as they clung on with 14 men to survive this stern All-Ireland SFC qualifier (Round 2) test from Westmeath on Saturday.
However, Cassidy was quick and unambiguous in his assertion afterwards that Paddy Bradley would not be adding to the camaraderie in time for next weekend’s third round tie.
Asked afterwards if there was any chance of talisman Bradley returning to the squad for next week Cassidy replied, “None whatsoever. We (the management) made a call based on training and the players performances in challenge matches and it was a football decision and Paddy (Bradley) decided to leave the panel based on that. There was no fall-out and no disagreement and it was very amicable, that’s why when you hear these stories it is very frustrating. I made a football decision, Paddy didn’t agree with it and he decided to walk. If Paddy decides he is going to commit to us again we are certainly not going to turn our back on him,” explained the coach.
Indeed Cassidy took the chance presented to him by the platform of victory to rubbish claims of disharmony in the camp.
“We had to find out today what type of spirit was in this team because there has been suggestions from pundits within the press and media of turmoil within the Derry camp. To be frank, these lads love to spin a story to create some media time for themselves because the facts of the matter are that the spirit in our camp and the attitude at training has been as good as you would expect from any team.
“Whenever you hear people making calls based on something that happened to one player and they make an assumption, you have to question what is it they are trying to do. You wonder is it about their careers and not the facts of the matter. That last 15 minutes really showed the spirit in this team and when their backs were to the wall they dug in and came through to win.”
In a gritty, physical game, the sides were level four times in the opening 25 minutes. An excellent long-range point by David Duffy left Westmeath trailing by 0-5 to 0-8 at the break, but Derry showed the greater accuracy to lead by six points after 46 minutes, thanks to further points by Lynch, Kielt and Raymond Wilkinson.
The tide appeared to turn in favour of the home side when Westmeath substitute Martin Flanagan was on the edge of the square to fist a dropping ball to the Derry net in the 48th minute and the Derry fans feared the worst when midfielder Joe Diver received his second yellow and subsequent red card in the 52nd minute.
Said Cassidy: “This was a hard-fought win in the last 15 minutes. The three-point lead we created was a fair reflection of the first half. In the second half we responded well to create a six-point lead. At that stage we felt the game was going away from Westmeath and that we were home and dry, but a goal against the run of play was followed by a second yellow for Joe which I felt was a very tough call.”
Meanwhile, Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan, whose reign as interim manager concluded with the defeat was unaware what the future held for him.
“My total focus was on the match against Derry and I haven’t looked beyond today and I honestly don’t know what is going to happen regarding my future”.
Scorers for Derry: M. Lynch (0-5, 0-3 from frees), J. Kielt (0-5, 0-4 from frees), Eoin Bradley (0-2), Raymond Wilkinson (0-1).
Westmeath: D. Dolan (0-4, 0-2 from frees), M. Flanagan (1-0), P. Bannon (0-1), M. Ennis (0-1), D. Duffy (0-1).
Subs for Derry: D Mullan for G O’Kane (inj, 17), S L McGoldrick for C McKeever (51), B McGuigan for D Mullan (67).
Subs for Westmeath: M Flanagan for C Lynam (34), C McCormack for J Keane (inj, half time), D O’Donoghue for K Maguire (61), I Coffey for G Egan (67).
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