DERRY GAA: Oak Leafers relegated despite defeating Fermanagh

Derry's Emmett McGuckin gets away from Fermanagh's Ryan McCluskey during their Division 2 game at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

Derry's Emmett McGuckin gets away from Fermanagh's Ryan McCluskey during their Division 2 game at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

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Allianz National Football League Division Two


Fermanagh 0-13, Derry 2-08
An unlikely two goal hero; a spirited comeback and an injury time winning point - Derry's display in Fermanagh had a bit of everything except the happy ending as the worse Oak Leaf fears were realised thanks to Jerome Johnston's late equaliser 223 miles away in Cork.
In the end, Conor McAtamney's two superb goals and Carlus McWilliams' equally sublime late winner counted for nothing. Derry will play Division Three football next season as will Fermanagh after Down salvaged a surprise draw in Cork.
Derry experienced the full spectrum of emotions inside 60 Brewster Park seconds as the elation of McWilliams' score gave way to to stark realisation of relegation.
Their fate was sealed in Fermanagh but this was a conundrum made in previous weeks as the defensive deficiencies which have dogged Damian Barton's team all year came back to haunt them. Finishing on five points, level with both Clare and Down, The heavy scores conceded against Meath, Cork and Galway meant Derry went down and Down survived.
The job Barton and his backroom team have now is to lift this squad for the daunting prospect of an Ulster Championship meeting with Tyrone.
Yet it all started amid so much optimism.
Both defences have come in for criticism this season and Derry wasted no time exposing home frailties with a superbly worked goal inside 30 seconds.
Padraig Cassidy won the throw-in and wheeled away to find Danny Heavron who had time to get his head up and send a long ball in toward Emmett McGuckin. McGuckin was under pressure from Che Cullen but produced an exquisite first time touch off to the supporting run of McAtamney who strode forward before beating Thomas Tracey with a fierce drive.
It looked straight off the training ground and was just the score to settle the visitors but they failed to build on it and ended the half trailing by a point to a Fermanagh side that only hit two points from play in the opening 35 minutes.
Sean Quigley frees were the main source of scores for Pete McGrath's men, the big full forward hitting 0-5 in the first half, including four frees and a late '45' after a miraculous Danny Heavron tackle denied Lee Cullen a certain goal.
Quigley first free was the home side's opening score but with Heavron dictating tempo for Derry and Brendan Rogers doing an excellent job on Quigley, the visitors looked to have a degree of control.
A patient build-up led to Enda Lynn firing over Derry's second score from wide on the left but another Quigley cut the deficit to 1-1 to 0-02 after seven minutes.
Fermanagh were guilty of sitting very deep and leaving Quigley isolated though Derry looked unsure on hoe to capitalise at times, a fact illustrated by Derry players being penalised for over carrying too many times inside the home '45'.
Niall Loughlin and Quigley traded frees.before Barry Mulrone hit the home side's first from play with 24 minutes on the clock. That was cancelled out by a Benny Heron point on 27 minutes, the last Oak Leaf score of the half as Fermanagh finished strongly.
Captain Eoin Donnelly got his name on the scoresheet when he punched a Quigley free over with Quigley then adding another himself to tie the game at 0-6 to 1-03.
With the clock ticking into first half injury time, Fermanagh launched another attack from deep with Declan McCusker picking out the run of Cullen to send the midfielder clear on goal. Cullen showed admirable composure to sidestep the out rushing Thomas Mallon and looked set to roll the ball into the unguarded net before Heavron appeared on his shoulder from nowhere to dispossess him and send the ball inches past the post.
It allowed Quigley to send his side in at half-time one point to the good but a Fermanagh goal at that point would have been a major boost for McGrath's team.
Derry needed a good start to the second half but it was Fermanagh who carried on where they have left off with a Quigley free and Declan McCusker extending the home lead to three points.
Half-time Derry substitute James Kielt replied with a free before Paul McCusker fisted a point for Fermanagh despite having the chance to shoot for goal.
A superb Kielt point from play brought Derry back to 0-10 to 1-05 but they were struggling to make inroads against the packed Erne defence.
If anything Fermanagh looked more dangerous. As Derry introduced Ryan Bell and Mark Lynch, Quigley and Declan McCusker - who was enjoying an excellent second half- extended the home advantage to 0-12 to 1-05 and Derry were in major trouble.
Step forward McAtamney once more. The unlikeliest of two goal heroes got himself on the end of a move started by gavin O'Neill down the left to take Kielt's pass and shoot home at Treacy's near post to tie the game.
It got even better when Lynn edged Derry in front and with Down trailing at this point, Derry were staying up.
Another Quigley free gave Fermanagh renewed hope of staying up just as Monaghan referee Martin McNally signalled three added minutes.
That injury time was punctuated by a red card for Kielt and black cards for Paddy Reihill and Ryan Lyons a fact which saw them game tick toward the 75th minute.
Derry drove forward and the character shown was admirable. McWilliams' winner deserved more. Instead, the euphoria gave way to the news that Down had scrapped a draw and Derry were in Division Three.

Fermanagh's Mickey Jones with Derry's Danny Heaven during their Allianz FL Division 2 game at Brewster pk, Enniskillen. Picture - John McVitty

Fermanagh's Mickey Jones with Derry's Danny Heaven during their Allianz FL Division 2 game at Brewster pk, Enniskillen. Picture - John McVitty

Derry: Thomas Mallon, Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Connor Nevin, Neil Forester, Chrissy McKaigue, Danny Heavron, Conor McAtamney (2-0), Padraig Cassidy, Enda Lynn (0-1), Emmett McGuckin, Carlus McWilliams, Danny Tallon, Niall Loughlin (0-1, 1f), Benny Heron (0-1). (Subs) James Kielt (0-3, 2f) for D Tallon, H/T; Mark Lynch for E McGuckin, 49mins; Ryan Bell for B Heron, 49mins; Gavin O'Neill for D Heavron, 60mins;

Fermanagh: Thomas Tracey, Mickey Jones, Che Cullen, Kane O’Connor, Declan McCusker (0-3), Barry Mulrone (0-1), Aidan Breen, Eoin Donnelly (0-1) , Lee Cullen, Paul McCusker (0-1), Ryan Jones, Daryl Keenan, Eddie Courtney, Sean Quigley (0-8, 7f, 1 forty-five), Ryan McCloskey. (Subs) James McMahon for P McCusker, 45mins; Ryan Lyons for D Keenan, 56mins; Conor P Murphy for A Breen, 60mins; Tommy McCaffrey for E Courtney, 62mins; Paddy Reihill for D McCusker, 67mins;

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)