Derry got their Dr McKenna Cup campaign off to a winning start with a comprehensive 1-16 to 0-8 victory over Donegal at Owenbeg on Sunday.
A large crowd of just over 3000 spectators witnessed a low key affair with little by way of excitement to get the pulses racing.
When asked if he was happy enough with the performance Derry manager Brian McIver remarked, “Well it was the first match and we had a number of players to look at. Donegal were doing exactly the same, so we were happy enough with that.”
Neither team was anywhere near full strength as McIver alluded to.
“It was one of those games where it was very experimental for both teams,” he said.
“All we wanted to do was see how the new players would do. We know what a lot of the other players are capable of doing but we wanted to have a brave good look at the new lads and I was happy enough with them.
“I don’t like to single out individuals but as a team they played well. All the newcomers that were given a shot, even the players that were thrown in there at the very end, with little experience at this level like Liam McGoldrick and Jarlath Bradley, did very well and they will all get more game time throughout the McKenna Cup.”
When it was suggested that Derry’s defence had done very well, restricting Donegal to just two points in open play over the 70 plus minutes, Brian McIver retorted with a smile, “Yeah I was very pleased with that.
“It’s no secret that it’s an area that we want to improve on but the other side of it is that when you throw on Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and others you’ll be under a lot more pressure than we were under today. But we know that!
The home side opened their account in the 16th minute when Emmett McGuckin finished off a well worked move started from a short kick out in their own defence.
Niall Holly and Brian Óg McAlary were involved in the initial build up at the back while it was Mark Lynch’s cross that McGuckin won to turn his man and fire to the net.
Three points were quickly added, the first two fisted over by McAlary and Enda Lynn before McGuckin again was the tormentor in chief as he won an aerial duel, turned his man again and fired over.
McGuckin went on to a man-of-the-match performance where he was constantly troubling the Donegal full back line with his bustling style.
Twice, points from Martin O’Reilly and his fellow midfielder Gary McFadden cut Derry’s lead to two but points from Mark Lynch had the home side three ahead, 1-5 to 0-5 at the break.
After competing well in the first half, Donegal would pay for their missed opportunities as Derry turned the tables and dominated at midfield during the remaining 35 minutes.
Derry started to win Donegal’s kickouts on a regular basis throughout the second half to provide the platform for a series of winning points, indeed they outscored Donegal 0-11 to 0-3 in the second half as the visitors challenge waned completely.
Derry added three points in the opening ten minutes of the second half from Mark Lynch, Daniel McKinless and McGuckin.
While Donegal responded with a pointed Martin O’Reilly free and a fine Dermot Molly effort Derry led by double scores 1-11 to 0-7 midway through the half with points from Lynch, Kevin Johnston and Conor McAtamney.
Indeed that McAtamney effort could have been a goal as Donegal goalkeeper Michael Boyle made a great save to tip the shot over.
Derry manager Brian McIver wrung the changes in that second half with three of those coming in getting on to the scoreboard in the latter stages.
Daniel Heavron, Benny Heron with his first touch from a ‘45’ and Eoghan Rua’s Liam McGoldrick finishing a great move all got fine points. Another substitute, Mark Craig, completed the scoring picking up a poor kick out, to round off a decent afternoon’s performance for the OAK Leaf men.
Still manager Brian McIver will not read too much into this 70 minutes of football, it was nothing more than a decent run out getting the cobwebs blown away after several months out of action since the Longford debacle.