Derry will rue their poor start which eventually cost them as Galway ran out narrow 1-15 to 0-15 winners in the opening National Football League Division 2 game last Sunday afternoon in Salthill.
Most of the damage was done early on when the home side raced into a 0-4 to nil lead in the first ten minutes and by the end of the first quarter Galway had moved five clear at 0-6 to 0-1. Derry did improve as the game wore on and by the end of the first half had trimmed the deficit to four as they went in to the break 0-8 to 0-4 down.
An early point from Patsy Bradley reduced the deficit further but Derry suffered a real setback as they conceded the only goal of the game just three minutes into the second half and were now six behind again. From that point on it was always a game where Derry were playing catch-up football. With P J McCloskey gaining a foothold around the middle and the introduction of the experienced Gerard O’Kane and Barry McGoldrick they made a real fist of it and had fought back well to get within a point 1-9 to 0-11 with still twenty minutes left.
They were still hanging in a point adrift ten minutes from time at 1-11 to 0-13 but they could not make that all important sep to get on terms as the home side finished strongly. In the closing stages a one of Galway’s substitutes made a real impact, Mark Hehir striking over a superb point to add to a couple from man of the match Michael Meehan. Certainly apart from that shaky start Derry stood toe-to-toe with Galway for three quarters of the game. They showed great battling qualities to come back from that poor start and manager Brian McIver will not be too downhearted despite this opening day defeat.
With Michael Martin and Michael Meehan in excellent form Galway settled well and had four points on the board before Derry opened their account with a superb long range P J McCloskey effort. After Galway had moved 0-6 to 0-1 clear Derry began to settle to the task and had the next three points in a row, all from range through P J McCloskey again, Ryan Bell and James Kielt. Two late points from the impressive Michael Meehan, one from a free had Galway four ahead at the break 0-8 to 0-4.
It could have been worse for Derry had Galway not spurned a real goal chance in the 27th minute when Sean Denvir burst through the heart of the Derry defence, but his shot thumped off the crossbar. Derry too spurned chances and left a few poorly struck efforts into the goalkeeper’s arms in the first period.
The visitors started the second half well as Patsy Bradley thumped over a fine point but just three minutes Derry were rocked by a Galway goal. A high ball to the edge of the square was punched goal-wards by Danny Cummins but it came off the bar, Michael Meehan was quickest to react and he palmed to the net. It was the lucky break that the home side is always likely to get in these types of close games!
However despite that setback Derry reacted really well and showed commendable battling qualities to hit six of the next seven points to move within one of Galway. Eoin Bradley hit three of those points with Ryan Bell, James Kielt and Barry McGoldrick weighing in with the others. During that spell Derry goalkeeper Eoin McNicholl made a superb double save to deny Danny Cummins a goal. The sides then exchanged points as Paul Conroy edged Galway two ahead before the excellent PJ McCloskey responded for Derry. Substitutes Eoin Concannon and Mark Hehir hit important points to keep Galway just out of reach despite late efforts from Raymond Wilkinson and Enda Lynn.
Not the start that Derry would have wished for but the battling qualities will have heartened mamangement. Next up is another difficult challenge with Laois at home on Sunday afternoon in Celtic Park. They showed their intent with a good first day out win over Armagh, 0-20 to 1-10, and will come to Celtic Park in confident mood. This will be the first of four home league games for Derry, as tough as it gets, and one they will be targeting for victory. Laois have been installed as one of the favourites for promotion to Division 1 and their big win over an, albeit inexperienced Armagh side has got them off to the perfect start. They have a seriously experienced forward division with the likes of Russ Munnelly, Billy Sheehan, Donie Kingston and Padraig Clancy aboard and they are certain to ask big questions of the Derry defence.
Derry will not want a repeat of their poor start against Galway when they went four and then five points down, a similar start against Laois on Sunday would surely end with the same result, defeat and pointless after two games. The Oak Leaf men will be looking to the performance of the last three quarters against Galway when they matched them toe to toe, it will take that for the full 70 minutes plus to get something out of the upcoming encounter with Laois.