Division Two final: Dublin 4-6 Derry 0-11
Dublin on the undercard, but still delivering knockout blows. They might not be accustomed to curtain raisers, but they brought the curtain down on their Division Two dalliance with a second-half goalscoring spree that suggests they won’t be returning to these league backwaters anytime soon.
As Galway and Mayo took to the field for the Division One final, Dessie Farrell was in the bowels of the Cusack Stand – a part of Croke Park most of the Dublin players had never seen before – analysing his side’s league campaign.
“Patchy enough, so probably six and a half [out of ten],” he said when asked to sum up their Division Two sojourn. Fair? Probably. They achieved what they had to without ever overextending themselves. Job done, move on.
Dublin lost only one game during their seven divisional matches, a one-point defeat to Derry at Celtic Park four weeks ago. And at half-time here Rory Gallagher’s Ulster champions were 0-6 to 0-4 ahead. Dublin had kicked five wides and dropped another effort short.
But they ransacked the Derry rearguard in the second half, scoring four goals and it could have been more. Dublin outscored Derry 4-2 to 0-5 in the second half.
Over the course of the game they created eight good goalscoring chances against a Derry side that entered the final boasting the best defensive record in the division. They had conceded just three goals in the competition prior to this game. Dublin had scored just five, so they almost doubled their tally in the space of 35 second-half minutes.
“I think you’re definitely trying to play with a bit of a higher tempo, particularly against teams with that type of really disciplined set defence,” said Farrell. “When you turn them over that’s always an opportunity, particularly higher up the pitch so you need to commit bodies and you need to go after those types of opportunities in terms of counterattacks.”
Two of the eight green-flag opportunities arrived in the first half, John Small driving over the crossbar when through one-on-one and, moments later, Tom Lahiff’s low close-range shot being deflected over the crossbar by Odhran Lynch’s outstretched leg.
Both sides got numbers back and had a solid defensive shape when the opposition were in possession, but it was Dublin’s ability to launch rapid counterattacks that caught Derry out.
Shane McGuigan caused the Dubs plenty of problems in the first half, while at the other end of the field Conor McCluskey was doing a decent man-marking job on Con O’Callaghan.
However, that all changed in the second half. McGuigan failed to score from play after the break while O’Callaghan was unmarkable at the other end.The Cuala man was involved in all of Dublin’s productive attacking play.
The warnings had been there in the first half and just two minutes after the restart a dropping ball in by Fenton, who appeared to be shooting for a point, was met midflight by a brilliant Killian O’Gara flick to the Derry net.
It was the first of three quick-fire setbacks for Derry. Just two minutes after Dublin’s opening goal, Conor Glass hobbled off with a hamstring injury, and moments later McGuigan skewed a scoreable free wide.
“It’s not a long-term injury, he just nipped his hamstring,” said Gallagher afterwards. “But it’s still going be a race against time.”
The absence of Glass around the middle had an impact on proceedings thereafter. When the All-Star midfielder hobbled off his side trailed by a single point. They lost by seven.
Dublin’s second goal came from a penalty, which was won by O’Callaghan after he was fouled by McCluskey, and neatly tucked away by Paul Mannion. John Small smacked home the third after a great run by Lahiff, who harnessed his inner Owen Mulligan with the amount of dummies he was selling. Derry bought them all.
The pick of the goals was Lorcan O’Dell’s 68th-minute strike, his effort nestling near the top corner of Lynch’s goal, bouncing in off the stanchion. The reality is Dublin should have scored even more – Conor Doherty scrambled a ball off his line from a Seán Bugler shot midway though the half while Daire Newcombe will wonder how he slapped the ball off the post with the goal at his mercy following a lovely pass by O’Callaghan.
“I think we were the better team in the first half, that’s the disappointing thing from our point of view, that we didn’t stretch the lead out,” said Gallagher.
“At half-time that was the test for us, to see if we could come out, but probably giving away the sloppy goal changed a good bit of the dynamic.”
Six points is not exactly a points total that will win you many games, but for a team that hadn’t been creating as many goal chances as they would have liked, finishing their stay in Division Two with a flurry is a decent way to close out this chapter of the season.
“We’ve been working on some stuff on the practice ground, just a little bit more focus on goalscoring and execution of goalscoring,” added Farrell.
So, back to the top-flight Dublin go as Division Two champions. Onwards to the Leinster Championship now. And then the All-Ireland series. You can scrap them off the undercard. The main stage awaits again. Summer dawns.
Dublin: David O’Hanlon; Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne, Daire Newcombe; John Small (1-1), Cian Murphy, Lee Gannon (0-1); Brian Fenton (0-1), James McCarthy; Colm Basquel, Seán Bugler, Tom Lahiff (0-1); Dean Rock, Con O’Callaghan, Killian O’Gara (1-1). Subs: Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1) for Rock (9 mins); Lorcan O’Dell (1-0) for Basquel (45 mins); Paul Mannion (1-0, 1-0 penalty) for O’Gara (45 mins); Niall Scully for Lahiff (55 mins); Ross McGarry for Bugler (68 mins)
Derry: Odhran Lynch; Pádraig McGrogan (0-1, 1 45), Conor Doherty, Conor McCluskey; Pádraig Cassidy, Gareth McKinless, Ethan Doherty; Conor Glass (0-1), Brendan Rogers; Niall Toner (0-1, 1f), Paul Cassidy (0-2), Niall Loughlin; Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan (0-6, 3f), Ben McCarron. Subs: Lachlan Murray for McCarron (35 mins); Shea Downey for Glass (39 mins); Matthew Downey for Heron (57 mins); Eoin McEvoy for McGrogan (68 mins); Niall O’Donnell for Rogers (73 mins)
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)