Dr McKenna Cup: Lights out for Antrim as Derry shine
Derry 2-14 Antrim 0-14: Derry manager John Brennan was full of praise for his players after they beat Antrim by six points under the lights at Celtic Park on Saturday night and claimed their place in the Dr. McKenna Cup final.
It was the Oak Leafers’ fourth consecutive win in the competition and first half goals from Sean-Leo McGoldrick and Paddy Bradley ensured progression to the final for Brennan’s men.
“I think we did well tonight,” said Brennan after the game.
“We created the goals in the first-half and hit the upright a few times in the second.
“I think their [Antrim’s] pack defence was caught out for the two goals tonight but one thing I have to say is that we created our own chances.”
Despite conceding 14 points to the Saffrons, Brennan stated that he is not “worried” about the capability of his back line.
“I’m not worried about anything. Kevin McCloy is coming back soon and the likes of Charlie Kielt who can strengthen up our defence will return too,” added Brennan.
“Gerard O’Kane has done fantastically well over the last two games where he has filled in at full-back.
“Naturally enough, he doesn’t like playing in the position but credit to him, he’s a natural talent and always does whatever is asked of him and he has done it admirably for the last two games.”
In recent weeks Brennan said that he wanted to instil a winning mentality amongst his players, and he feels the side is moving in the right direction.
“We’re in the McKenna Cup final which is good and credit must go to the players because for a lot of them they have worked extremely hard,” he explained.
“I know people are talking about our full-back line but we are still building and we have a long way to go.
“Perhaps the bar of expectation was set a wee bit high by some people but I think the players are gradually getting there and the graft within the team is certainly going the right way.
“One of the best managers in the game is Mickey Harte and he is an advocate of the competition.
“I agree with him because we have played four games inside 15 days and in terms of preparation for these players it’s just brilliant.
“Some of the players haven’t played a game of football since August so I think they’ve done extremely well with how they’ve performed.”
Both sides traded scores for the first 20 minutes but it was goals from the impressive Sean Leo McGoldrick and talisman Paddy Bradley that would turn out to be the difference between the two teams.
Although an Antrim resurgence simmered away briefly in the second-half the Derry back line was up to the task and an impressive display from Mark Lynch maintained the lead for the Oak Leafers.
Antrim’s star performer on the night was corner forward Paddy Cunningham who notched up an impressive tally of seven points, five of which were frees.
However, despite Cunningham’s prowess in front of the Derry goal it wasn’t enough and Derry ran out worthy winners.
Derry will meet the winners of the other semi-final between Tyrone and Cavan.
The date of the final is still to be confirmed.
DERRY: Conlon; McCallion, O'Kane, McBride; Drumm (0-1), B McGoldrick, McAlynn; McCloskey, Conway (0-1); Mullan, SL McGoldrick (1-1), Lynch (0-4); C McGoldrick, Bradley (1-4 1f),Gilligan (0-3 2f). Subs: Holly for McAlynn 49 mins.
Antrim: Kerr; C Brady, Andy McLean, McCann; Scullion (0-1), Healey, D O'Neill; Herron (0-1), Crozier; T O'Neill, Niblock, Sweeney; Cunningham (0-7 5f), Dougan (0-3), McGourty (0-2). Subs: K Brady for McCann 53 mins; Laverty for Scullion 62 mins; McAleese for D O’Neill; McNeil for McGourty 65 mins.
Referee: Gavin Corrigan (Down).