Derry defeat Offaly to make Celtic Challenge semi-finals
Heading down the road to Dublin in torrential rain, the young Oak Leaf side entered the capital and made hay when the sun shined.
In great conditions on one of the best pitches in Ireland, Derry defeated a very well organised and disciplined Offaly team. Darragh McGilligan won the toss and opted to play against the breeze. It was a big call. After two minutes the Faithful County where two points up from a long-range effort from wing-back Shane Ryan and the busy Lee Hogan.
But it didn’t take the Derry lads long to settle, and after a few near misses, Lee Colville had Derry on the score sheet.
Both teams traded points, Offaly midfielder Pat Phelan on target before Derry captain Darragh McGilligan got onto a pin point pass from keeper Passmore, broke through and split the posts from 50 yards.
Padhraig Nelis and Offaly’s Kevin Tierney traded points before Passmore stepped up and sent two frees (12th and 13th minutes) over from his own 65 against a swirling breeze.
Play of the game was a moment of brilliance from McGilligan and Nelis. McGilligan set up a sideline from 45m but went across the pitch to Na Magha’s Nelis, who batted the ball back to McGilligan, who dummied the oncoming defender and sent Derry into a two-point lead.
The busy Nelis was next on the score sheet again on 20 minutes and was quickly followed by full forward Colville’s second.
Offaly were not going away handy though and after some good tussles in both defences, Cian Burke scored followed by two frees from corner forward Loughlann Quinn, who was very accurate from placed balls for Offaly.
Shea Cassidy, who was quiet by his usual standards, turned his marker and put the ball over from the side-line on the 20m line.
Offaly’s Quinn, from a free, and another McGilligan point took both teams to half time with Derry leading 0-10 to 0-8.
Upon the restart, McGilligan started where he had left off with another Derry point from the throw in but after all Derry’s hard work, a long ball into the Oak Leaf defence, wasn’t cleared. Enormous pressure lead to a fumbled ball which broke right and was pulled to the net by Offaly’s Lee Hogan on 33 minutes.
Derry never panicked and after a few wides, an Offaly puck out was won by the Derry midfield, popped to Pauric Nelis who ran straight down the centre of defence, drew the full back and hand-passed to Cassidy, who stepped inside and raised the green flag in the 35th minute.
McGilligan won another Offaly puck out and broke through three defenders and struck another score.
In the 36th minute, Derry were well on top in the middle third with Niall McGonigle, Jack Cassidy and Aodhan O’Hagan solid at the back, McGilligan and Eoin McCallion working tirelessly in midfield and O’Kane, Nelis and Murray driving on the attack.
Offaly’s Calum Flannery was battling hard at midfield and his work paid off with a fine score on 37 minutes but from the resulting restart, Passmore’s puck out found McCallion who played in Colville but his effort was well saved by Martin Lawlor. However, the ball broke and the ever present Cassidy stepped in lifted, dummied and found the net.
Offaly responded well and although they had two wides from Hogan, centre forward Burke hit the sliotar from 25yards for either point or net. However, Burke’s shot defected of an Oak Leaf hurl and Passmore, who had already moved for the original shot, found the ball nestling in the opposite corner. The game was back to 15-18 with 20 minutes to play.
The young Oaks never flustered and after composing himself, Passmore once again found a Derry hand as the ball was played to Colville who dually obliged and sent the ball over from 45 yards.
Both teams were working hard to drive on but Derry’s full back line of Karl McGilligan, Jack Conway and Mark McEldowney were well on top, cutting out everything Offaly threw at them.
After an intense battle it wasn’t until the 48th minute when Derry got some breathing space as Michael Murray, McGonigle and Darragh gave the Oak Leafers a 2-17 to 2-9 lead wih less than 10 to go.
Offaly again came back, with two frees from Quinn and one from play from wing forward Adam Landy.
Player of the half, Cassidy, then got the Derry support singing once again with one from play and one from a free, won by replacement Thomas McKeagney, whose first touch of the game found him taking on and then dragging down by his opponent.
The game finished with another free from Quinn and a final point from the game’s ‘Best and Fairest’ player, Shea Cassidy.
Derry now head for the Corn William Scott Semi Finals to play either Westmeath, Galway Tribesmen or Clare Saffrons
Derry: Leo Passmore (0-2f); Karl McGilligan, Jack Conway, Mark McEldowney; Aodhan O’Hagan, Niall McGonigle (0-1), Jack Cassidy; Eoin McCallion, Darragh McGilligan (0-6); Ryan McPeake, Padhriag Nelis (0-2), Dara O’Kane; Kosta Papachristopoulos, Lee Colville (0-3); Shea Cassidy (2-4, 0-2f);
Subs: Michael Murray (0-1) for McPeake, Keelan Doherty for Papachristopoulos, Thomas McKeagney for Nelis (inj)