Derry move to top of Division Four after victory over Wicklow

Derry manager Damian McErlain
Derry manager Damian McErlain

Allianz National League Division Four

Derry 2-08, Wicklow 0-09

Derry leapfrogged Leitrim to the top of the Division Four table thanks to a comfortable Ciaran McFaul inspired five point victory over Wicklow at Glen on Sunday.

Playing on his home ground, McFaul was excellent, orchestrating most Oak Leafers attacks to ensure Wicklow's hopes of getting involved in the promotion stakes suffered a major blow.

First half goals from Christopher McKaigue and Christopher Bradley provided Damian McErlain's team with a cushion they rarely looked like losing against the Garden County who lacked the attacking prowess to take advantage of a number of promising openings.

The victory takes Derry to the summit on scoring difference from Leitrim with both counties having taken maximum points from their fixtures to date and a four points gap now having opened up to Wicklow and Limerick in third and fourth.

Even a late red card for McFaul couldn't derail the home side's charge toward another two points with a real possibility the promotion places could already be decided before the top two meet on March 16th in Celtic Park.

Ironically Wicklow started in promising fashion, early points from Jamie Snell and Stephen Duffy taking them to a 0-2 to 0-1 lead after six scoreless minutes from throw in.

Derry were using Declan Hughes in an unfamiliar full forward role with Shane McGuigan and Ryan Dougan supporting and the Lavey player did well to provide a use ful outlet for Oak Leaf attacks.

McFaul however, was the key and his probing passes opened up Wicklow on 13 minutes for the game's first goal. The Glen playmaker picked out Dougan with a lovely ball and he in turn found the run of McGuigan whose powerful surge took him clear of the covering defenders before squaring to leave McKaigue with a simple fist into an unguarded goal.

Wicklow did respond well through points from the impressive Conor McGraynor and Duffy but when Derry needed a response, they invariably found it as McFaul and Emmet Bradley hit points on their home pitch to reinstate that two points lead at 1-03 to 0-4.

The killer blow though was the second goal and it was one Wicklow keeper Mark Jackson will have nightmares about as the alert Christopher Bradley seized on the keeper's poor kick-out to roll the ball back into an empty net from 20 yards.

Jackson made some amends with a well struck '45' in first half stoppage time but Derry's 2-03 to 0-05 half-time lead was ominous for the visitors.

And so it proved as John Evans' men never quite got the second half goal they needed to reignite their chances. They had opportunities, a melee two minutes after the break seeing Derry scramble the ball off their own line on at least two occasions.

Derry though always had another gear when needed and every time a Wicklow score would suggest revival, the home side doused the optimism with a score of their own to run out comfortable winners while registering a welcome first clean sheet of their league campaign.

Derry Scorers: Christopher McKaigue (1-0), Christopher Bradley (1-0), Emmett Bradley (0-4, 2f), Ciaran McFaul (0-2), Ryan Bell (0-1), Padraig Cassidy (0-1);

Wicklow Scorers: Jason Snell (0-1), Stephen Duffy (0-2, 2f), Conor McGraynor (0-3, 2f), Mark Jackson (0-2, 1f, 1 '45'), Mark Kenny (0-1);

Derry: Thomas Mallon, Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Paul McNeill; Jason Rocks, Eamonn McGill, Michael McEvoy; Christopher McKaigue, Ciaran McFaul; Emmett Bradley, Shane McGuigan, Padraig Cassidy; Christopher Bradley, Ryan Dougan, Declan Hughes.

(Subs) Ryan Bell for D Hughes, 49mins; Patrick Coney for J Rocks, 59mins; Conor McAtamney for R Dougan, 59mins;

Wicklow: Mark Jackson; Oisin Manning, Ross O Brien, Jamie Snell; David Devereaux, Shane Mooney, Darragh Fitzgerald; Padraig's O Toile, Dean Healy; Darren Hayden, Mark Kenny, Theo Smith; Chris O'Brien, Stephen Duffy, Conor McGraynor.

(Subs) Patrick Connor for S Duffy, 41mins; Conor Healy for T Smith, 48mins; Gearoid Murphy for C O'Brien, 48mins; James Stafford for D Devereaux, 61mins; Eoin Murtagh for S Mooney, 64mins;

Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)