Longford send Derry crashing out
Longford 0-17 Derry 2-8: Oh me, oh my. Another late Joe show and another late goal-mouth scramble.
This time, however, replace Joe Sheridan with Joe Diver. In the last act of the game, the Derry substitute fielded magnificently through a mass of bodies and, somehow, forced the ball to the net.
Had the goal stood, Derry would have secured extra-time but Michael Duffy - refereeing his first game since his blunder in the Down-Monaghan game last weekend - awarded a free out, and Longford marched on.
The Sligo official, who was well positioned, made the decision almost immediately in what was a pretty impossible situation to manage. Up to 20 players had converged on the square, and tempers were simmering after a scuffle that saw almost every player on the pitch get involved.
That row had seen four yellows dished out, including a second to two-goal hero Barry McGoldrick, who had stolen up from corner-back twice in the second half to give his side a lifeline.
Diver fielded Conleith Gilligan's lofted '45' but Duffy quickly awarded a free out, lifting the siege and putting the midlanders into this morning's draw. However, Derry manager John Brennan cried foul afterwards.
"The players are satisfied that Joe Diver caught the ball clean," said Brennan. "We have seen goals like that awarded before. How he can then award a free out, I don't know. We are not surprised because he was castigated last week for his performance. In this game he was doing reasonably well until the second half. He went in, caught the ball and the ball then went over the line. That was their interpretation."
Extra-time might only have amounted to a stay of execution for Derry.
Longford's 17 scores over the course of the game compared to Derry's 10 is an accurate reflection of their superiority with McGoldrick's goals keeping their challenge alive.
But perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised. Derry are without eight of the side that started last year's Ulster final and Brennan conceded that was a key factor.
"It is not rocket science," said Brennan, who would not be drawn on his future as Derry boss.
"I have to find players. We had a few players playing their first campaign in inter-county football. We have to live with that, but it would be better if we had a stronger panel."
Longford enjoyed a three-point lead (0-8 to 0-5) at the break, despite a slow start that saw Derry on top. Mark Lynch was edging his battle with Michael Quinn in the early stages and Paddy Bradley was looking lively.
But Longford carved out the first goal opportunity when a surging run from Quinn cut Derry open. Shane Mulligan found Sean McCormack but his shot was deflected wide by a smart Danny Devlin save.
McCormack's accuracy from frees and placed balls edged the midlanders further ahead and Longford were really starting to motor as the half drew to a close when Bernard McElvaney burst through on goal, only to take his point. Derry had the edge on the restart as Longford struggled to get going after a nine-minute delay for an injury to midfielder John Keegan that saw the St Columba's man stretchered off with his neck in a brace.
Glenn Ryan reported afterwards that the decision to take him off was precautionary.
Typically, Paddy Bradley led Derry. He charged around, demanding the ball and dropping back as deep as midfield to snaffle possession. It was the Glenullin man that made Derry's first goal with a beautifully drilled 40-metre pass to McGoldrick, who finished well. Eoin Bradley delivered a long sideline for McGoldrick's second as a previously miserly Longford defence creaked.
But at the other end, Paul Barden had found his groove. Mark Craig hauled him down when he looked to be through on goal, while Brian Kavanagh landed a superb point to edge Longford into the lead with six of the allotted 11 minutes of injury-time played. And from there they never looked back as the lessons of the defeat to Wexford were heeded.
"The one thing I am delighted about is that we threw a game away against Wexford that we could have won and it came down to not knowing how to win," said a happy Ryan. "And in fairness to the lads they put the lessons they learned that day into effect here and it got us over the line on a night that we played poorly. There was a bit of luck here and there but we will take it.
"These lads have shown remarkable resilience. We have had to go to the well on every occasion. Every game this year has been a huge battle for us and this one in particular because people were making us favourites and for us to be favourites against a traditionally strong team like Derry was a huge burden for our lads to carry and they carried it."
SCORERS - Longford: S McCormack 0-11 (9f), M Quinn ('45'), B McElvaney, B Kavanagh, F McGee, C P Smyth P McCormack 0-1 each. Derry: B McGoldrick 2-0, P Bradley 0-3 (1f), J McCamely 0-2, M Lynch, E McGuckin, E Bradley 0-1 each.
Longford - D Sheridan 6; D Brady 6, B Gilleran 6, D Reilly 7; C P Smyth 7, M Quinn 8, S Mulligan 6; B McElvaney 8, J Keegan 7; F McGee 7, P Barden 8, N Mulligan 6; D McElligott 6, B Kavanagh 7, S McCormack 8. Subs: D Barden 6 for Keegan (inj 37), P McCormack 7 for N Mulligan (59), P Foy for McGee (71), P Gill for McElligott (77).
Derry - D Devlin 8; R Dillon 6, C McKaigue 8, B McGoldrick 8; R Scott 7, M Craig 6, SL McGoldrick 6; M Friel 6, Patsy Bradley 7; M Donaghy 6, M Lynch 6, J McCamley 7; E Bradley 6, Paddy Bradley 8, E McGuckin 8. Subs: C Gilligan 6 for M Donaghy (47), N Forrester 6 for E Bradley (71), J Diver for Patsy Bradley (75), B McCallion for Lynch (79).
Ref - Michael Duffy (Sligo)