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Oak Leaf men axe Kerry

Derry 2-13 Kerry 2-9

Derry's love affair with the National League title may have hit troubled waters in recent years, but today all is sweetness and light once again in the Oak Leaf county.

On four occasions within a nine-year spell up to and including the year 2000, Derry's relationship with the second most prestigious trophy in gaelic football blossomed.

But a cold front that has ensued since then sparked the belief that the cosy alliance had been consigned to history. That's not the case, though.

Yesterday at Parnell Park, Dublin, Derry offered a display against Kerry in an absorbing National League decider that mirrored the weather - bright, heartening and with the strong hint of better to come.

To win silverware is invariably satisfying - to do so by laying low the reigning All Ireland champions is doubly rewarding.

Derry gave the Kingdom a head start - they were six points in arrears by the 17th minute - but in a whirlwind second-half Derry not only thundered out a message of defiance, but succeeded in convincing the manufacturers of Ulster Championship odds to re-define their documentation today.

If teamwork was the essence of this Derry coup, then the man of the match performance served up by Fergal Doherty, the defensive nous of Ger O'Kane, the easy athleticism of Conleith Gilligan and the majestic finishing of who else but Paddy Bradley ultimately buried Kerry's hopes of claiming the first big prize of the year.

Success, though, did not come easy. Donnacha Walsh may have drilled in a second minute goal for Kerry after Ciaran Donaghy's exquisite feed and Darren O'Sullivan's pace certainly caused palpitations within the Oak Leaf ranks as points followed from Mike Frank Russell, O'Sullivan himself, Aidan O'Mahoney and Eoin Brosnan - yet there was much worse to follow for the northerners.

Indeed, the exit gates must have appeared the soft option for their followers when O'Sullivan stabbed in Kerry's second goal in the 23rd minute after Donaghy had touched on a hopeful Seamus Scanlon garryowen to give the Kingdom a seemingly unassailable 2-4 to 0-3 lead.

Yet Kerry were to score just five more points from the 28th minute until the end of the game. And in that period Derry's swashbuckling attacking style, their zealous work-rate and unremitting effort pierced holes in their opponents' morale.

By half-time, the red and white flags were already flying again after Doherty thieved a superb 31st minute goal to be followed by a brace of Bradley points that saw Kerry take an uncomfortable 2-5 to 1-6 lead into the sanctuary of their dressing-room.

Some players from both sides were still taking up their positions when Kerry goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy and defender Padraig Reidy combined to fumble a Bradley lob and Gilligan was in like a flash to slip the ball into the net.

Even a brace of points from Russell which complemented another from O'Sullivan failed to halt Derry in their stride with Bradley snapping up two quickfire scores to which substitute Paul Murphy added another.

And with stalemate having ensuing on three occasions from the start of the second-half until the 53rd minute, the Derry bandwagon was not only rolling - it was in overdrive.

Confirmation of this came in style, too. McCusker, O'Kane and Michael McIver cleverly pilfered points before Kerry's woes were compounded when the hitherto unthinkable happened - Colm 'Gooch' Cooper was dismissed by referee Maurice Deegan for incurring a second yellow card.

It was entirely appropriate, though, that the magnificent Bradley should have embossed one of the most famous victories in Derry's recent history by steering over the last point from a sideline kick.

Only down side from yesterday's memorable odyssey? Derry will now go into the Ulster Championship as title favourites!

Derry scorers: P Bradley (0-6, 0-3 frees). C Gilligan (1-1, 0-1 free), F Doherty (1-0), E Bradley (0-2), Murphy, McCusker, O'Kane, McIver (0-1 each).

Kerry scorers: Darren O'Sullivan (1-2), M F Russell (0-4, all frees), D Walsh (1-0), T O Se, A O'Mahoney, E Brosnan (0-1 each).

DERRY: B Gillis; K McGuckin, N McCusker, F McEldowney; L Hinphey, G O'Kane, M McIver; F Doherty, J Diver; M Lynch, B McGoldrick, E Muldoon; C Gilligan, P Bradley, E Bradley. Substitutes: S M Lockhart for McEldowney (33 mins), P Murphy for E Bradley (42 mins), K McCloy for Hinphey (58), J Keenan for McIver (66). Yellow cards: McCusker (37 mins), McGuckin (57 mins).

KERRY: D Murphy; P Reidy, M O Se, T O'Sullivan; T O Se, A O'Mahoney, R O Flaharta,; D O Se, S Scanlon; Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh, E Brosnan; Darren O'Sullivan, K Donaghy, M F Russell. Substitutes: C Cooper for Declan O'Sullivan (46 mins), M Quirke for Scanlon (61), D Bohane for O Flaharta (63), A Maher for Russell (66). Yellow cards: T O Se (39), C Cooper (57): Red Card: Cooper (70).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).

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