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Derry ease eight years of suffering

It was a good day at the office yesterday for Derry. Well actually that's not right. It was a great day for Derry. At Parnell Park they humbled the mighty Kerry to take the National League title and they took it in some style.

The victory has eased all the pain of the last eight years. That was the last time this Derry side won silverware and the success was a long time in coming.

For too long Derry have flattered to deceive but yesterday they delivered when few outside Ulster thought they would.

I was speaking to team boss Paddy Crozier earlier in the week and Paddy told me that Derry wouldn't be far away come Sunday.

Mind you in the opening 20 minutes it looked like it was going to be the same old story. Kieran Donaghy was causing havoc and Derry were reeling. They had failed to get out of second gear and you worried how it would all end. At one stage they were seven points behind and it didn't look too good.

But this for me is a different Derry side from a few years ago. They were able to spring the likes of Sean Marty Lockhart and Kevin McCloy from the bench. Derry are not just a good team now but a good squad and for that Paddy Crozier deserves huge praise.

In many ways the Derry post is a poisoned chalice. In Derry the club football is probably one of the highest standards in the country but too often they failed to gel as a team. Talking to Paddy Bradley this week it was clear that Derry were determined to give it their best shot. It was fitting that Bradley would round off a great league campaign with a brilliant sideline free to complete the scoring.

Yesterday they continued to work hard even after conceding two goals. They showed great character in bouncing back and their goal just before the break was one of the crucial moments. But it wasn't just that. Derry got stuck into Kerry in the second half and that's something that Kerry just don't like.

In recent years this Kerry side has lost to the likes of Armagh, Tyrone and now Derry and whilst they won't panic there has to be serious questions asked about their attitude.

Of course on the other foot the pressure now comes to bear on Derry. After yesterday their odds on winning the Ulster title and going on to challenge for the Sam Maguire will have been shortened and that is only right. Since the start of the year I have been tipping them as one of the top teams not just in Ulster but in Ireland and yesterday they showed that in bucketfuls.

Now they have five weeks to prepare for Donegal in Ballybofey in the Ulster Championship. Defeat that day and a league title would be a distant memory.

On a personal note I am delighted for all Derry fans and everyone involved with the team. In June Gary Coleman is organising a massive day in memory of his father the late great Eamon Coleman. A special football match and a banquet are the order of what will be a very special day. The last time Derry won the league was in 2000 when Eamon was in charge. It will be fitting that the National League trophy will be on show in Ballymaguigan that night in memory of a great man and a vision perhaps of what the future might hold for this Derry team.

If Derry can celebrate Fermanagh shouldn't be too despondent after losing to Wexford in the Division Three final. It's been a good league for Fermanagh with promotion to Division Two. Manager Malachy O'Rourke will have been pleased with the manner in which his side bounced back from two early goals to push the game into extra time. Those two goals made life difficult and it was a pity they couldn't just find enough for victory.

Either way it's all shaping up nicely for the Ulster Championship which is just around the corner. Place your bets and take your chance.

Belfast Telegraph


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