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Red-hot Derry hit the ground running

Bank of Ireland McKenna Cup: Derry4-16 - Antrim 2-12

By Declan Bogue

The first day out in January always throws up the odd baffling performance, so as good as Derry were in racking up 4-16, you have to say that Antrim helped them immensely with a limp effort.

As early as the fourth minute, James Kielt and Emmet McGuckin butchered a goal chance for Derry. From that moment on Antrim were wide open at the back and there to be ransacked.

By half-time, the scoreline was 2-8 to 1-7 in favour of the home team, the scoreboard not reflective of the pattern of the game.

It took the Saffrons until the final minute of the first-half to get their first point from play, sustained instead by the place-kicking of Brian Neeson and Mick McCann- who kicked six points from the dead ball between them - when substitute Tomás McCann nipped in behind to solo-dummy past Derry goalkeeper Eoin McNicholl and pot a shot to the rigging.

Chris Kerr was working wonders with his shot-stopping. However, he had the bare materials from kickouts, with Conor McAtamney and Emmet Bradley catching everything. And he was also over-worked by his full-back line who were destroyed by McGuckin and Ryan Bell when the ball came in high.

Both Derry goals in the first-half came from such rudimentary play. After five minutes, Liam McGoldrick caught a ball and rounded Colm Duffin with ease before thumping low past Kerr.

The second goal came on 21 minutes. Kerr had only kicked out after a successful Kielt free when McAtamney plucked it from the sky. Fouled after returning to ground, he played it to McGuckin, who tipped it down to Shane Heavron, marking his debut with a cool finish.

The second-half was a mere 13 seconds old when Kerr came to claim a ball from Kielt. It hit off his body and Heavron was on hand to toe-poke home.

When Niall Loughlin was brought down by Kerr in his first play after being introduced, Bell planted his penalty in the corner past Ronan Hanna, who came on as a black card replacement for Kerr, leaving 12 points in it.

Antrim's highlight of a dreary second-half was an almost carbon copy second goal for McCann, again swerving past McNicholl to tap home.

Saffrons boss Frankie Fitzsimons said: "Our boys have done a lot of training. That was their first run out and you can see they haven't been using the ball much. But we will get back over the next few days and it will pick up a bit for Wednesday night (against Queen's)."

Derry manager Damian Barton, meanwhile, was chasing perfection. He said: "The skill level wasn't what it should be. The workrate dropped a bit before half-time, you could sense it, you could feel it and you could see it in the body language, so there are things we need to address."

They meet Tyrone next Sunday. There will be more bite in that one, guaranteed.

DERRY: E McNicholl; K McKaigue, D McBride, J Morgan; L McGoldrick 1-0, C McKaigue, D Heavron 0-2; E Bradley 0-1, C McAtamney; C McFaul 0-1, J Kielt 0-2, 1f, E Lynn 0-2; E McGuckin 0-1, R Bell 1-4, 1-0 Pen, 3f, S Heavron 2-1. Subs: O Duffy for Morgan, N Loughlin 0-1, for S Heavron (40m), C Bradley 0-1 for Kielt, M Lynch for McGuckin (46m), S McGahon for McAtamney (54m), N Forester for McGoldrick (60m). Yellow cards: Morgan (10m), C McKaigue (60m). Black cards: 0. Red cards: 0.

ANTRIM: C Kerr; K O'Boyle, C Burke, J McGreevy; J Crozier, J Lavery, M Heinz; J Carron, S McVeigh; C Duffin, C Murray 0-1, M Sweeney; B Neeson 0-5, 5f, M McCann 0-3, 3f, K Niblock. Subs: T McCann 2-0, for Lavery (16m), J Dowling 0-1, for McVeigh (26m), P Gallagher for Neeson (52m), C Fleming 0-2, 2f, for Heinze (59m).

Yellow cards: Niblock (10m), McGreevy (48m). Black cards: Kerr (41m, replaced by R Hanna). Red cards: 0. Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan). Attendance: 1,126.

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