A TERRIFIC second half performance against a strong wind when they outscored Meath by 1-9 to 1-3 was the key to a Derry victory that keeps their promotion hopes on track but it will all depend on results from the last round of the league on Sunday.
To achieve their goal Derry must beat Antrim at Casement Park on Sunday and depend on Donegal taking at least a point off Laois and Meath taking at least a point from their home game with Tyrone.
However on last Sunday’s performance it’s unlikely that Meath will trouble Tyrone, their big team led Derry by 2-4 to 0-5 after twenty minutes and they had been playing into a near gale force wind. With promotion at stake Tyrone seem to hold all the aces.
At half time Derry trailed by 2-5 to 0-9 at Celtic park and looked set for a third successive league defeat at the venue. Their second half performance saw superb flowing football as they took the Meath defence apart with quick inter passing football and deadly finishing. Even when Meath cut the gap to a point in the closing stages Derry were able to raise their game again and hit points on the break.
Derry were forced to reshuffle their team before the start as Cairan Mullan, Martin Donaghy and Enda Muldoon were deemed unfit to start. However manager John Brennan took a gamble on Donaghy and put him on for the second half and the Claudy man answered the call in some style by scoring two points and being involved in most of the good attacking moves.
Meath are now hovering on the brink of relegation to the third division, they had every opportunity to win this game but they showed a lack of leadership when Derry ran at them in the second half.
Poor passing out of defence gifted Meath 2-2 in the first half, Joe Sheridan’s first goal had a hint of fortune as he appeared to mis-hit the ball and it trickled past Mickey Conlon. His second gaol was an excellent strike but it was only in a brief spell during the first half that the big full forward did the damage. That apart he was well marshalled by Kevin McCloy.
On the day Derry had some outstanding players none better than Gerard O’Kane at wing half back who scored two points in an outstanding performance, not far behind was fellow half back Charlie Kielt. The powerful Michael Friel had a decent game at midfield while in attack Paddy Bradley shone despite being closely man marked by Cormac McGill. Sub Martin Donaghy, Conleth Gilligan and Sean Leo McGoldrick when he moved into the attack were also in great form.
With the wind behind them Derry missed some early chances and went 0-3 to 0-1 down before in a three minute spell Gerard O’Kane, Michael Friel and Mark Lynch edged them a point ahead. Then came those two Meath goals and it could have been a hat trick for Sheridan after blazing wide with an earlier chance.
Derry finished the half well to close the gap at the interval to 2-5 to 0-9.
Meath’s second half onslaught failed to materialise, they hoisted in high balls which Derry dealt with comfortable and when Sean Leo McGoldrick finished off a brilliant attack with a superb goal nineteen minutes into the second half Derry led by 1-13 to 2-6 and Meath were becoming increasingly disjointed.
With seven minutes left Derry got a shock when a Michael Bateson shot was blocked own and Cain Ward who had missed several frees earlier blasted angled a to the net and now Derry just led by a point 1-15 to 3-8.
Derry failed to wilt and took up the running again to finish with points from Martin Donaghy, Paddy Bradley free and Conleth Gilligan free for a memorable win. This result means that Meath have just beaten Derry once in their last fifteen meetings, that was at Navan in 2006 when Meath won by 0-10 to 0-8.