Cassidy lands crucial late blow for Derry
Antrim 1-9 Derry 1-10
Derry edged out Antrim in a tense Ulster derby at Corrigan Park as the Oak Leafers made a winning start to their Division Four campaign yesterday.
Should Damian McErlain's men secure a swift return to Division Three, they could look back on their trip to West Belfast as the pivotal moment.
With the game seemingly destined for a draw after Antrim goalkeeper Padraig Nugent had denied Enda Lynn from the penalty spot in injury-time, Padraig Cassidy kept his composure to land a fisted point on 73 minutes to break Antrim's hearts.
The Saffrons had battled back gamely in the second half after the visitors established a 0-6 to 0-1 lead at half-time playing with a strong wind in the bitter cold.
The first 10 minutes failed to yield a score with players struggling to adapt to conditions before a Christopher Bradley free broke the deadlock on 11 minutes. An excellent Ciaran McFaul effort was followed by another free from Bradley as Derry opened up a three-point lead before Ryan Murray opened Antrim's account from a free on 17 minutes.
Conor McAtamney and Enda Flynn added further points as Derry took control with Antrim guilty of some poor shot selections and Murray's free was all they had to show for the first half as Bradley's third free gave Derry a five-point lead at the break. To make Antrim's task tougher, the wind died down in the second half, but Antrim signalled their intentions from the restart with Paddy McBride splitting the posts.
Murray then landed his first from play to cut the gap to three. However, centre-back Michael McCarry tripped Lynn for a penalty on 41 minutes.
Slaughtneil's Shane McGuigan blasted past Nugent to put Derry 1-6 to 0-3 ahead. The home side replied almost instantly with Bride beating Thomas Mallon with a fine finish to give the Saffrons a lifeline.
Lenny Harbinson could not have asked more of his substitutes with Stephen Beatty, Patrick McCormick and Owen McKeown all raising white flags as Antrim levelled the game at 1-9 in the dying minutes.
There was more drama with Paddy Gallagher conceding his side's second penalty following a foul on Patrick Coney. With McGuigan subbed, Lynn stepped up, but Nugent dived correctly and saved to his right. Cassidy sealed both points with a fisted point in stoppage time.
ANTRIM: P Nugent; N Delargy, R Johnston, P Gallagher; E McCabe, McCarry, D Lynch; M Sweeney, M Johnston; K Quinn, M Fitzpatrick, F Burke; P McBride (1-3, 0-1f), C Duffin, R Murray (0-3, 0-2fs). Subs: O McKeown (0-1) for McCabe (44mins), S Beatty (0-1) for Quinn (47mins), R McCann (Aghagallon) for Fitzpatrick (48mins), P McCormick (0-1) for M Johnston (58mins), R McCann (Creggan) for Burke (63mins).
DERRY: T Mallon; S Quinn, K McKaigue, E Concannon; E McGill, C McKaigue, J Rocks; C McAtamney (0-1), C McFaul (0-2); P Coney (0-1), E Bradley, P Cassidy (0-1); E Lynn (0-2, 0-1fs), S McGuigan (1-0, 1-0 pen), C Bradley (0-3, 0-3fs). Subs: M McEvoy for Rocks (41mins), J Doherty for E Bradley (58mins), P McGrogan for McGuigan (58mins).
Referee: P Faloon (Down).