Derry and Monaghan played out a dramatic draw at Owenbeg to open their season with plenty of positives. Niall Loughlin top scored with five points for Derry, with Rory Beggan converting three frees for Monaghan.
Ulster’s traditional footballing curtain raiser often allows managers a chance to experiment, but with Derry missing their Slaughtneil hurlers and a number of their nailed-on starters — Conor Glass, Ciaran McFaul. Gareth McKinless and Padraig Cassidy — Rory Gallagher had little option other than to throw a few cubs in at the deep end.
The Derry manager handed debuts and starting berths to former All-Ireland Minor winners Lachlan Murray and Matthew Downey. Exciting young prospects Anton Tohill and Dan Higgins were also handed Derry debuts late in the game.
In contrast, Monaghan arrived with most of their heavy artillery named to start, with only Daragh McElearney making his debut.
Greenlough’s Loughlin opened Derry’s account when he converted a laser-guided ‘45’ after two minutes. Beggan returned fire soon after and the same two players made it 0-2 apiece, and then 0-3 each.
An Emmett Bradley free edged Derry one ahead at the first water break.
They couldn’t be separated at 0-5 each before points from Lachlan Murray and a monster from Oisin McWilliams gave Derry a two-point advantage, the Oak Leafers leading 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time.
Derry stretched that lead to four shortly after the restart, care of Benny Herron and a second from McWilliams. By the second water break, Gallagher’s side led 0-10 to 0-8.
Two in a row from Micheal Bannigan pulled the teams level at 0-10 with 10 to play. A sweetly-taken Jack McCarron free handed Monaghan the lead for the first time in the 64th minute.
Ethan Doherty quickly cancelled out that brief lead. Kieran Duffy looked to have snatched victory for Monaghan when he pointed deep into injury time before Ethan Doherty grabbed a share of the spoils.
Derry scorers: Derry: N Loughlin 0-5, E Doherty 0-2, O McWilliams 0-2, E Bradley 0-1, B Herron 0-1, L Murray 0-1. Monaghan scorers: R Beggan 0-4f, M Bannigan 0-3, C Boyle 0-1, K Lavelle 0-1, F Kelly 0-1, A Woods 0-1, K Duffy 0-1
Derry: O Lynch, C McCluskey, P McGrogan, S Downey (A Tohill 67 mins), E Doherty, C Doherty, M McEvoy )E McEvoy 63 mins), O McWilliams, E Bradley, P Cassidy, B Herron (D Higgins 70 mins), M Downey, N Toner (D Cassidy 58 mins), N Loughlin, L Murray
Monaghan: R Beggan, S Hanratty, C Boyle, R Wylie, K O’Connell (K Duffy 43 mins), D Ward, D McElearney, K Lavelle, N Kearns, F Kelly (M Bannigan 25 min), A Woods, B McBennett, D Garland, G Mohan (J McCarron 53 mins), D Hughes (A Mulligan 44 mins)
Referee: S Laverty (Antrim)