Derry 5-13 Clare 2-8
The final scoreline tells it all. Yes, this was by and large a dull predictable miss-match that certainly did little to enhance the status of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.
Derry may have booked their place in the semi-finals, but they will surely be aware that a much bigger test looms ahead on the weekend after next.
Clare tried hard and even put their shoulder to the wheel when Derry sought to take flight into the stratosphere in the second-half, but in the end it was men against boys.
It took precisely 12 opening minutes to flash the message out loud and clear that the last rites were being administered to Clare’s championship ambitions. In that devastating spell Benny Heron and Conor Glass rammed in goals and Niall Loughlin had potted a free to put Derry on easy street.
By half-time Paul Cassidy had grabbed a third goal, Shane McGuigan had signalled that he was about to deliver a stunning scoring solo show and Clare’s Pearse Lillis had discovered that his carefully-crafted goal counted for little.
At 3-6 to 1-3, Derry were on a different planet to their opponents and further goals from Gareth McKinless and the unstoppable McGuigan merely compounded Clare’s misery.
No wonder Derry manager Rory Gallagher looked content rather than euphoric at the finish.
“We had a good idea that Clare’s game plan would be to keep the game tight and conservative in the opening stages anyway, but we got those two opening goals and we were able to build from there,” said Gallagher afterwards.
“They set their stall out by conceding the kick-outs, but we wanted to get off the mark as quickly as possible.
“When we missed a number of chances to get points we made up for it by converting a number of scores during a period when we were on top.
“There is no doubt that we became a little bit nonchalant when Clare got their second goal. I have to say, though, that there was a very good response from my players.
“I thought it was great to see the quality coming to the fore. We tacked on scores and kept taking the game to Clare.
“There is no doubt that Shane McGuigan is a very good player, but Shane himself knows that he has to put the team first.
“This being the case he always has to come up with the shots as he did on this occasion.”
Indeed, when McGuigan fired in Derry’s fifth goal in the 48th minute, to all intents and purposes he put the final ribbons on his team’s flamboyant performance.
Yet he was to score four points and with Paul Cassidy throwing in one for good measure Derry cantered to the finishing line with the biggest roar of the day reserved for man of the match McGuigan when he was withdrawn in the 67th minute.
And just as he was on target with the vast majority of his shots, he was also right on the button in his post-match assessment.
“It wasn’t easy in the first-half, but a lot of boys stood up to the mark. Clare were reacting well to the pressure we were putting on, but even though we conceded two soft goals, I would be happy enough with our performance,” McGuigan said.
“I think the stuff that we’ve been getting in the media has been quite unfair, to be honest. We pride ourselves on our defence, but this is a 15-man game.
“Our manager Rory always says, ‘In any other sport you defend as a team and you attack as a team.’
“We haven’t changed from that at all. Going into this game against Clare, a lot of people were saying it wouldn’t suit our style, but I think we proved a lot of people wrong by the way we performed.”