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National Football League Division 3 North: Derry maintain 100 per cent record

By Aidan Delaney

Cavan 2-11 - 1-16 Derry What a difference 6 months can make. You’d have been laughed out of November’s Ulster final if you would have suggested that Cavan would be in a relegation playoff in Division 3. However today’s 2 point loss to Derry means Mickey Graham has to prepare his side for a semi final against Wicklow. Derry meanwhile go marching on knowing they held on here for a third win in a row in 2021. Shane McGuigan’s 8 points today kept up his reputation as one of the finest forwards in Ulster. Rory Gallagher’s men again began with intent and the Slaughtneil man opened his account with a point from play and then from a free in the first 3 minutes. Emmet Bradley and Niall Loughlin also slotted over before Raymond Galligan was called upon to produce a point blank save. Loughlin converted the resulting 45 and that put Derry 0-5 to no score up after 9 minutes.

Given Derry’s ruthlessness in recent weeks, this game was in danger of leaving Cavan behind but young Caoimhan McGovern broke their duck with a lovely point from play. That was doubled after a turnover from the Oakleaf lockout and Oisin Kiernan raised the white flag. That set them off and running but they still needed Galligan to dig them out with another good block from a Loughlin effort. The All Star also found the time to slot over a 45 before a brilliant run from wingback Luke Fortune reduced the deficit to 0-5 to 0-4 at the water break. It was hard to separate the sides from the restart as Conor Doherty and Niall Murray traded points before the first major of the game came from the experienced Gearoid McKiernan to give the Breffni men the lead for the first time 1-5 to 0-6 with 26 minutes gone. The men in red and white looked timid and meek after the break and needed a spark to get themselves back in the game. They got it from Niall Loughlin after patient buildup from the left. The Greenlough star injected a bit of pace and smashed to the roof of the next to level the scores 1-6 each after 27 minutes. McGuigan found his range again just before the half time break to give Derry a slender 1-7 to 1-6 lead. Both sides seemed to have left their shooting boots in the dressing rooms but Benny Heron and McGuigan eventually settled the Derry heads with Loughlin scoring the pick of the bunch to put the away side 1-13 to 1-6 up after 16 minutes of the second half. It took Cavan another 3 minutes to worry the scoreboard men with Fortune who was excellent for the most part. A raft of subs saw the return of Thomas Galligan to the Ulster champions and certainly seemed to buck up their attacking ideas. They looked more dangerous up front and Derry chose the fouling option giving goalkeeper Galligan and McKiernan the chance to edge their way back into the contest which they took at every opportunity. 1-14 to 1-10 in Derry’s favour with 5 minutes to go. The home side at Kingspan Breffni made a game of this into the final minutes with Padraig Faulkner reacting first when the ball hit the post, his floated pass was slapped in by Martin Reilly. Just a point in it with 3 minutes plus the added time to come on a scoreline of 2-10 - 1-14.

This was Derry’s first real defensive challenge of the league and they stood up well forcing Oisin Kiernan to shoot wide while McGuigan stretched their lead to two from a placed ball. That would be as close as Cavan would get as the visitors finished strong to remain unbeaten. Rory Gallagher’s men will now prepare for Limerick and the promotion they missed out on the head to head rule last year is still on.

Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 '45): Killian Clarke, Padraig Faulkner, Chris Conroy; Cian Reilly, Oisin Kiernan (0-1), Luke Fortune (0-2); Conor Brady, Killian Brady; Martin Reilly (1-0), Gearoid McKiernan (1-3, 0-3 frees), Caoimhan McGovern (0-1); Niall Murray (0-1), Patrick Lynch, Conor Madden.

Subs: Conor Smith for Caoimhan McGovern (half-time), Michael Argue for Niall Murray (half-time), Thomas Edward Donoghue for Chris Conroy (50th minute), Thomas Galligan for Killian Brady (53rd minute), Cormac Timoney (0-1) for Conor Madden (53rd minute), Stephen Murray for Patrick Lynch (53rd minute), Oisin Pierson for Thomas Edward Donoghue (76th minute).

Derry: Odhrán Lynch; Christopher McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Padraig McGrogan; Paul McNeill, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty; Conor Glass (0-1), Emmett Bradley (0-3); Ethan Doherty, Niall Loughlin (1-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 '45), Ciaran McFaul; Benny Heron (0-1), Shane McGuigan (0-8, 0-4 frees), Paul Cassidy.

Subs: Michael McEvoy for Brendan Rodgers (60th minute), Oisin McWilliams for Benny Heron (62nd minute), Ben McCarron for Padraig McGrogan (64th minute), Jack Doherty for Paul Cassidy (70th minute), Shea Downey for Niall Loughlin (74th minute)

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