Cavan 0-11 Derry 1-11: Oak Leafs grab title with classy win over Cavan
On a weekend when Derry's season at senior level eventually crumpled in disarray, the county's minor team provided a ray of hope for the future by sweeping to the Ulster championship title against Cavan at St Tiernach's Park, Clones yesterday.
Perhaps the only really surprising feature of the contest is that Damian McErlain's side had just three points to spare at the finish but the manager was quick to point out just why Cavan enjoyed a brief second-half renaissance.
"We set back and let them come at us for a spell but then we managed to close out the game," observed McErlain. "We worked really hard and we needed this Ulster title big-time.
"Now the All-Ireland has to be on our radar. We have a quarter-final coming up against Longford and that will be another big test for us."
But having added the scalp of Cavan to that of Donegal which they claimed in their Ulster semi-final, Derry will now move forward with even further confidence and vitality.
They may have squandered a ration of chances yesterday, surrendered the ball rather too tamely on occasions in the tackle and been guilty of a lack of concentration now and again in defence but their overall work ethic, physical power and finishing skills proved too much for a Breffni side that enjoyed only spasmodic spells of dominance.
Derry looked about to engage cruise control at half-time when they led by 1-8 to 0-5, their cohesion and penetration up front disrupting Cavan's defensive mechanism. No one did more in this connection than left-full-forward and player of the match Shane McGuigan, who by the half-way stage had posted four superb points from play and provided an exquisite pass for Tiarnan Flanagan to blast home the only goal of the game in the 29th minute. It was to prove a crucial strike, too, as events transpired. Dillon Raythorne and Darragh Gannon had kept Cavan afloat prior to the break but Conor Smith's arrival from the bench added more injection up front while David Brady was pushed up from midfield.
Derry goalkeeper Ben McKinless made a superb save from a Brady thunderbolt in the 40th minute and from then on Cavan never quite looked like getting the goal they so desperately needed.
Instead, with Patrick Kearney an imposing force at midfield, Conor Glass offering an assured touch in everything that he did and McGuigan a constant threat up front, Derry managed to close out the game - but it was a trundle rather than a surge to the finishing line.
Derry: B McKinless; N Keenan, C McGrogan, C Maunsell; O Duffin, M McEvoy, E Concannon; P Kearney 0-3, J Doherty; P Coney, S Downey 0-1, C Glass 0-1; T Flanagan 1-0, B Grant 0-1, S McGuigan 0-5. Subs: F Higgins for Grant (38 mins), F Kearney for Flanagan (54), N McAtamney for Coney (58).
Cavan: F O'Rourke; P O'Reilly, D Monahan, L Fortune; D Raythorne 0-3, S Fortune, D Wilson; D Brady 0-2 (both frees), C Brady; D Gannon 0-3 (0-2f), P Leddy, R O'Neill; D Kennedy, T E Donohue 0-1, R Fitzpatrick. Subs: C Smith 0-2 for Fitzpatrick, R Clarke for Leddy (both half-time), L Fay Cooper for S Fortune (44), E Cooney for Donohoe (56), S Smith for R O'Neill (57).
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).