Minors miss chance to punish Derry

Ulster MFC round 1

Derry 1-8

Cavan 1-5

For the second time this year, Seanie Smith brought the county minor footballers to Owenbeg to face the current All-Ireland champions and for the second time they had to deal with extraordinary weather conditions.

With Storm Kathleen blowing a whirlwind around Owenbeg, the game followed a similar path to most games over the weekend with a different game plan for each half. The conditions are best explained by the fact that Cian McConnell in goals for Cavan caught his own kick-out on more than one occasion in the first half.

It was all about containment in the first half for Cavan and at the break the Breffni boys would have been happy to be just four points adrift. Cavan management made two late changes to the starting line-up by replacing two from the full-forward line with more defensive style players in Tiernan Flood and Thomas Gilsenan.

In the second half it was all about attack and although neither side scored heavily, it was probably Derry’s greater ability to score from open play that won the game in the end. Cavan only managed to score one point from open play through Odhran Madden while their hosts landed 1-7 of their total in open play with seven different scorers.

Cavan succeeded in frustrating Derry in the opening nine minutes as they played with that gale in the first half. Cavan almost got off to a dream start when Senan Macken pounced upon a slip from Derry keeper Michael Conlan but was unable to beat the Owenbeg wind with his shot at the empty goal. After an earlier wide by Ger Dillon he made no mistake with his second attempt to get the game’s first score. Mid-fielder James Sargent doubled the home side’s lead from the resulting Cavan kick-out.

Damian McErlean’s side looked to have hit their stride three minutes later when corner-forward Dylan Rocks curled a point over. Cavan, under pressure, managed to win possession of the ball from McConnell’s kick-out resulting in Tadgh Sheils being brought down going through on goal. Cootehill’s Shane McCabe stepped up and converted the spot kick, wiping out Derry’s advantage with one strike of the ball.

The penalty in truth came against the run of play and Derry soon regained control with a free converted by Eamon Young. With 22 minutes on the clock, Caoimhín Hargan doubled the Oakleafer’s lead with a well taken point on the run. As in the league semi-final, Derry’s midfield were a big part of their attack last Saturday as demonstrated by Turlough McHugh’s point seven minutes from the break.

Approaching the half-way point, Cavan were defending well as they got used to having very little possession of the ball. Finishing the half as he started it, Ger Dillon split the posts to leave the score 0-7 to 1-0 at the break.

The start of the second half saw the pre-game changes reversed as Charlie Fallon and Nathan Quigley resumed their places in the full-forward line. Within a minute of the restart, Derry made it a five point game with their fifth in a row as as full-forward Ruairi Biggs fisted the ball over the bar.

Cavan, not deterred, continued with the plan and on the fifth minute Gowna’s Odhran Madden closed the gap to four with a point. Two minutes later Nathan Quigley curled over a free on his left foot as Cavan built momentum but in a run against the play, Derry hit what proved to be the match winning score.

Derry, like Cavan in the first half, were pinned in on their own kick-out but managed to win one, resulting in a free inside the Cavan 45. James Sargent’s effort was held up in the wind and dropped inside into the Cavan square, causing panic. It feel kindly to Ruairi Biggs who gathered possession before finishing it to the back of the Cavan net to earn a crucial six-point lead with 17 minutes to play.

Cavan again got straight back to business and two frees converted by Nathan Quigley left just four between the sides. Cavan’s lacked nothing in desire and ability to create chances but unfortunately too many of those chances went unrewarded.

Joshua Shehu, who was causing the Derry defence huge problems, uncharacteristically missed a close-range free. Cavan back Oisín Maguire saw his long-range attempt for goal rebound off the Derry crossbar before Derry corner back Rian Collins produced a last ditch tackle to stop Jamie Clarke breaking through for a major.

With four minutes remaining, Odhran Madden raised the final white flag of the game from the sideline with a beautiful strike of the ball but it was too little, too late as the Derry defence held strong until the final whistle sounded.

Next up for Cavan is a home game in Kingspan Breffni against Armagh on Saturday April 20 at midday. The Orchard County won their opening game in Crossmaglen against Antrim 2-9 to 0-2 and so will be coming down the road with confidence.

Derry: Michael Conlon, Padraig O'Kane, Ronan Canavan, Rian Collins, Kevin Barry Mullan, Luke Grant, Dara McGuckin, James Sargent(0-1), Turlough McHugh(0-1), Eamon Young(0-1f), Ger Dillon(0-2), Caoimhín Hargan(0-1), Graham McIver, Ruairi Biggs(1-1), Dylan Rocks(0-1)

Subs: Cathal O'Mianain for P O'Kane, 49mins; Cathair McBride for G McIver, 57mins

Cavan: Cian McConnell, Oisin Maguire, Conor Doyle, Fiachra Brady, Shane McCabe(1p-0), Cian McCrystal, Senan Macken, Ryan Nwaneri, Jamie Clarke, Tadgh Sheils, Joshua Shehu, Odhran Madden(0-2), Thomas Gilsenan, Tiernan Flood, Faolan Graham

Subs: Charlie Fallon for S McCabe, HT; Nathan Quigley(0-3f) for T Flood, HT; Arijus Metlovas for S Macken, 38mins; Bobby Hanly for C McCrystal, 45mins; Ultan O'Reilly for T Sheils, 52mins.

Ref: Conall Roberts (Antrim).