All-Ireland SFC quarter-final
Derry v Clare
Saturday, Croke Park, 3.45pm
By Michael McMullan
AFTER waiting 24 years to get their hands on the Anglo Celt Cup, Derry took just 28 days to win the hardest fought Ulster title under the noses of champions Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal.
“It was just our time,” bellowed Chrissy McKaigue in his speech in front of a sea of white clad fans in the home of Ulster football.
When he leads the troops from under the Cusack Stand on Saturday, it will be 27 days since that epic Sunday in Clones.
Every corner you turn in the Oakleaf County, people have been taking football. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and after seven years of freefalling down the divisions, the hopes of moving up the ladder have morphed into an excitement like never before.
In recent weeks, the Qualifiers have chewed up and spat out eight teams, with Clare upsetting the odds seeing off Meath and Roscommon.
When Colm Collins took the Banner gig in October 2013, Mick O’Dwyer had left them in fourth position in Division Four in his last season of management. Brick by brick, Collins built them up alongside taking his native Cratloe to within a point of club giants Dr Crokes later that year in the Munster final.
When Derry avoided relegation to Division Three – on score difference – on the final day of the 2016 League season, Clare secured promotion to Division Two where they have remained.
The Banner stayed up on the back of head-to-head after wins over Cork and Clare (2019 and 2020), with Mayo ending their hopes of top flight football in a promotion semi-final the following year.
Derry needed a late James Kielt point to earn a draw when they crossed paths in the opening game of the 2017 league. Of the five players handed their debuts by Damian Barton that day, none will be on the bus to Dublin on Friday.
Peter Hagan didn’t feature under Rory Gallagher, with Niall Keenan moving to Bournemouth for study. Michael McEvoy, Danny Tallon and Jack Doherty all opted out under the current boss.
With a more settled spine, Derry have grown in stature and were within a whisker and a questionable second yellow card for Shane McGuigan from the top flight on their eventful draw with Roscommon in Hyde Park.
In the seven until their Championship opener with Tyrone, they crashed and burned against Galway in Owenbeg, but arrived at Healy Park with a cocktail of energy and desire that blew the All-Ireland champions out of the water.
There were unfounded rumours of Gareth McKinless defecting from the panel for a summer in America, but it was the Ballinderry man that set the tone, with Conor and Ethan Doherty running into the Tyrone defence at will.
Derry didn’t change their spots for the Monaghan game, with McKinless and the reinvigorated Benny Heron hitting the net to book their final spot.
The decider against Donegal was a game of poker where Rory Gallagher had most of the aces and used one of them – Brendan Rogers – to negate their star man Michael Murphy.
Odhran McFadden Ferry’s goal came against the wave of Derry dominance and brought the game back to life. Back in the trenches, Derry looked defeat straight in the eye after going behind for the first time in the championship, but found a way back into the game with Rogers and Conor Glass having enough energy left to help the Oaks over the finish line.
Saturday is first Championship outing at Croke Park since their 0-19 to 0-13 defeat to Kildare in the aftermath of losing the Ulster final. Only current selector Enda Muldoon remains from that side, with Chrissy McKaigue on the books of Sydney Swans at that point.
On paper, it’s the most favourable draw Derry could’ve hoped for. And after the Ulster Championship rollercoaster, the four-week window allowed a week of celebration ahead of a litany of 400 metre runs to get the fire stoked up for the next challenge.
Gallagher selected the same starting 15 for all three games and it’s hard to see anything changing in that regard.
Colm Collins has started 20 different players and after the gut-wrenching Munster final penalty shoot-out loss to Limerick, they’ve accounted for Meath and Roscommon. The latter result will keep the Oakleafers’ fans grounded to some degree.
It won’t be enough to pour water on the feeling that an All-Ireland final appearance is not beyond them.
Inside the bubble, it’s Derry ambition that will be their key component this week.
How much more can they give? Is there another gear in the engine that has purred into the story of the summer?
Chrissy McKaigue almost surely have been combing through the footage of Eoin Cleary’s performances that have totted up 3-30 (1-6 from play) this season.
If David Tubridy starts, he will need to be factored into the marking arrangements with Eoin Cleary also needing watching.
It will be interesting to see how the Derry management approach playing at Croke Park with the perception of a bigger pitch that plays faster.
It could well see Shane McGuigan playing in a more potent role close to goal.
The mentality and Derry’s approach will tell much about Saturday. They face a team that refused to go away, but if Derry are switched on it’s hard to back against them making it to the last four.
Martin McNally (Monaghan)
The Corduff man took joined the National panel in 2014, two years after taking charge of his first Ulster MFC game and the Monaghan SFC final.
He was the man in the middle for last season’s Leinster final, Dublin’s win over Kildare and Kerry’s victory against Limerick in the Munster final last month.
2022 NFL – Derry 2-13 Clare 0-10 Round 4
With three wins from three, Derry’s promotion challenge was in full flow by the time the Oakleafers rolled into Ennis.
While Derry were dominant in many sectors, they made hay off goalkeeper Stephen Ryan’s kick-outs.
Just a point separated the teams at the break, but goals from Benny Heron and substitute Gareth McKinless shot Rory Gallagher’s side to a comfortable win.
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rogers, C McCluskey; E Doherty (0-1), P McGrogan (0-1), C Doherty; C Glass, E Bradley (0-2); Paul Cassidy (0-1), N Loughlin (0-1f), O McWilliams (0-1); B Heron (1-0), S McGuigan (0-4f), L Murray (0-1)
Subs: G McKinless (1-0) for L Murray (33), C McFaul (0-1) for O McWilliams (45), N Toner for B Heron, (54), M Downey for N Loughlin (59), B McCarron for E Doherty (66)
Clare: S Ryan, M Doherty, C Brennan, C Rouine; C O’Dea, E Collins, A Sweeney; C O’Connor (0-1), D O’Neill (0-1); J Malone, E Cleary (0-1f), P Lillis; A Griffin (0-1), K Sexton (0-5, 3f), P Collins
Subs: C Jordan for E Collins (46), D Tubridy for P Collins (48), E McMahon (0-1) for J Malone (55), C Downes for A Griffins (64), D Keating for D O’Neill (70)
Ulster SFC Final – Derry 1-16 Donegal 1-14 AET
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rogers (0-3), C McCluskey; C Doherty (0-1), G McKinless, P McGrogan; C Glass (0-1), E Doherty; Paul Cassidy (0-1), S Downey (0-1), N Toner; B Heron, S McGuigan (0-6, 5f), N Loughlin (1-2, 1f)
Subs: E Bradley (0-1) for Loughlin (46), L Murray for Heron (64), B McCarron for Toner (68), P McNeill for Downey (72), N Toner for McCarron (ET 11), B Heron for Murray (ET 11), O McWilliams for Doherty (ET 16)
Donegal: S Patton; C Ward, B McCole, S McMenamin; R McHugh (0-1), EB Gallagher, O McFadden-Ferry (1-0); C McGonagle, J McGee (0-2); P Mogan (0-3), S O’Donnell (0-2), M Langan; P McBrearty (0-2f), M Murphy (0-2), J Brennan
Subs: C O’Donnell for J Brennan (57), A Doherty (0-1m) for O McFadden-Ferry (64), N O’Donnell for S O’Donnell (72), H McFadden for J McGee (ET 1), C Thompson (0-1) for C McGonagle (ET 10), E O’Donnell for P Mogan (ET 11), P Brennan for M Langan (ET 11)
All-Ireland SFC Round 2 Clare 2-15 Roscommon 1-17
Clare: T O’Callaghan; C O’Dea, M Doherty, C Rouine (0-1); P Lillis, A Sweeney, C Russell; J Malone (0-1), D O’Neill; C O’Connor (0-2), P Collins (0-1), E Cleary (0-2f); E McMahon (0-2), K Sexton (2-6, 5f, 1 pen), A Griffin
Subs:B Rouine for A Sweeney (53), D Tubridy for A Griffin (54), G Cooney for P Collins (61), C Jordan for E McMahon (66)
Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, B Stack, C Daly (0-1); C Hussey, R Daly (0-2), N Daly; U Harney, E Nolan; N Kilroy (0-1), C Murtagh (0-5, 1f), E Smith; D Murtagh (1-2, 2f), C Cox (0-1f), C McKeon (0-1)
Subs: R Hughes (0-1) for C Hussey (42), D Smith (0-2, 1f) for C Cox (47), K Doyle (0-1) for N Kilroy (58), A Glennon for D Murtagh (64), E McCormack for C McKeon (68)
DERRY: Shane McGuigan 2-50 (1 pen, 34f, 1m), Niall Loughlin 4-26 (14f, 2 ‘54’), Benny Heron 4-5 (1m)
CLARE: Keelan Sexton 3-30 (2 pens, 21f, 3 ‘45’), Eoin Cleary 0-32 (17f), Emmett McMahon 0-11, David Tubridy 1-8 (1 pen, 3f, 1m)
READ MORE – A tactical look at Derry’s win over Donegal. Click here…