DERRY looked set for their third league win in six outings when they led Louth by four points with just over ten minutes to go but they had to be content with a share of the spoils at the end of a lively encounter at sun splashed Celtic Park.
An injury to Michael Friel who was dominating midfield proved to be a big set back for John Brennan’s men who had put in a fine second half display until then.
One of the Louth ‘points’ from Jim McEnaney in the late Louth rally appeared to most people to have gone wide but despite Derry protests the score was given.
Derry will look back on how easily they gave away scores in the first half, they were repeatedly caught on the counter attack by Louth who packed their defence and then punted long balls forward with the Derry half back line caught going forward.
Still the point gained looks good enough to keep Derry in the division. Their final game is away to bottom team Westmeath and another team below them namely Monaghan travel to Tyrone who have already won the division.
Once again injuries proved to be a big problem for Derry. In mid week centre half Mark Craig fractured a cheek bone in a training collision. Michael Friel was injured late in Sunday’s game and he had to be helped off with an ankle injury.
With Gerard O’Kane, Eoin Bradley, Barry McGoldrick, Dermot McBride and a number of others still on the injured list it has not been a lucky campaign for Derry.
The teams were level at the end of a very open first half where both defences struggled to contain the opposing forwards. Despite shipping an early goal Derry with Paddy Bradley and Conleth Gilligan in fine form came back to evens at the end of the 35 minutes 0-11 to 1-8.
Despite facing the stiff breeze in the second half Derry took the game to the big Louth men. A series of Louth defenders were unable to contain Paddy Bradley who hit five successive points in the opening twenty minutes of the half.
Louth looked down and out when Derry went into a 0-18 to 1-11 lead with eleven minutes left. Blaine Gormley came close to putting the game out of the Leinster team’s reach when he hit the ball just wide in a goal mouth scramble.
With PJ McCloskey substituted and Michael Friel injured the new Derry midfield pairing of Joe Diver and Patsy Bradley struggled to keep control and the Louth attacks mounted. They cut the gap back to a point but a superb score from Paddy Bradley looked to have clinched the points from Derry.
Then came the point that closed the gap when Brian White sent over after the concession of a needless free. In the last seconds of injury time Darren Clarke with oceans of space kept his cool and got the ‘Wee County’ Men an unexpected draw and a chance to stay in Division Two if they beat fellow strugglers and neighbours Meath in the last game.
Derry scorers Paddy Bradley 0-7, 0-2frees, Conleth Gilligan 0-6, 0-5frees, Eoghan Brown 0-2, Enda Lynn, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Charlie Kielt and Blaine Gormley 0-1 each.
Louth scorers Darren Clarke 1-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65 Jim McEnaney 0-3, Derek Maguire, Jamie Carr, Adrain Reid, Ronan Carroll and Dessie Finnegan 0-1 each.
Derry. Barry Gillis, Brian McCallion, Chrissy McKaigue, Aidan McAlynn, Michael Drumm, Charlie Kielt, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Michael Friel, PJ McCloskey, Neil Forrester, Conleth Gilligan, Blaine Gormley, Eoghan Brown, Paddy Bradley, Enda Lynn. Subs Patsy Bradley for N Forrester (26), Eugeuen Scullion for A. McAlynn half time, Caolan O’Boyle for PJ McCloskey (49) Joe Diver for M. Friel (61) Ryan Scott for M. Drumm (66).
Louth. Neil Gallagher, Padraig Rath, Dessie Finnegan, Ray Finnegan, Declan Byrne, Jamie Carr, Liam Shevlin, Brian Donnelly, Ronan Carroll, Derek Crilly, Mark Brennan, Adrain Reid, Derek Maguire, Jim McEnaney, Darren Clarke, Subs James Califf for B. Donnelly (24) Andy McDonnell for D. Crilly (53), Stephen Fitzpatrick for P. Rath (60) Brian White for A. Reid (60) and Adrain Hoey for J. Califf
Referee Michael Brennan - Sligo