Five-star Derry hit Banner with goal blitz to seal first All-Ireland SFC semi-final spot for 18 years
Derry 5-13 Clare 2-8
It was one-way traffic as Derry clinically booked their place in the All-Ireland SFC semi-finals by virtue of a runaway win over Clare in Saturday’s quarter-final at Croke Park.
For Derry, this was a particularly sweet victory but manager Rory Gallagher is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground as he contemplates the immediate future.
By the twelfth minute Derry had stamped their authority on the match in no uncertain manner. While Clare were still trying to come to grips with their opponents’ movement and fluency, they were rocked back on the heels by a double goal blast that not so much ushered as propelled Derry into the driving seat.
It was when a Banner short kick-out went horribly wrong in the ninth minute that Derry pounced. As Clare tried desperately to retrieve the ball, Benny Heron swept in from the left to hammer home his side’s first goal.
Nor did Oak Leaf county fans have to wait too long before they hailed a second goal. This time it was Conor Glass who again exposed the left flank of the Clare rearguard before thundering a tremendous drive into the roof of the net.
By half-time, Derry had moved into an even more comfortable position after Paul Cassidy had cancelled out a Pearse Lillis goal for Clare to leave the Oak Leaf side leading by 3-6 to 1-3.
And there was to be no reprieve for Clare after the break. With Derry remaining dominant in all sectors – Glass was particularly prominent at midfield – they turned the screw further in the third quarter.
In the 45th minute Gareth McKinless surged through for his team’s fourth goal and just when Clare thought that they had grabbed some consolation with an Eoin Cleary goal two minutes later, man of the match Shane McGuigan immediately replied with a fifth Derry green flag.
Clare tried bravely to salvage a modicum of pride but such was the efficiency of Derry’s counter attacking and their accuracy that the Banner county simply had no answer to their all-round skills.
Manager Colm Collins turned to his bench for comfort but on the day there was to be no form of consolation.
Eoin Cleary and Keelan Sexton did their best to restore a modicum of pride for Clare but the Derry defence proved unyielding in the closing stages.
Derry’s fitness, power and pace proved too much over the course of the game while Clare’s deficiencies were exposed as the winners continued to keep a strong press on in the closing stages.
For Derry boss Rory Gallagher this was another feather in his cap and the indications are that his team’s championship surge may by no means be over.
Man of the match Shane McGuigan put Derry’s immediate outlook into perspective when he declared at full-time: “Our focus will now be on who comes through today’s games and we will see then what the semi-final pairings will be. As far as we concerned we will take whatever is put in front of us and see where we go from there.”
Derry: S McGuigan 1-8, C Glass, P Cassidy, B Heron 1-1 each, G McKinless 1-0, C McKaigue, N Loughlin 0-1 each.
Clare: E Cleary 1-5, P Lillis 1-0, D Tubridy 0-2, J Malone 0-1.
DERRY – O Lynch; C McKaigue, C Rogers, C McCluskey; C Doherty, G McKinless, P McGrogan; C Glass, E Bradley; P Cassidy, S Downey, E Doherty; B Heron, S McGuigan, N Loughlin. Subs: D Cassidy for McGuigan (67), P McNeill for Downey (67),
CLARE – T O’Callaghan; M Doherty, C Brennan, C Rouine; C O’Dea, C Russell, J Malone; D O’Neill, C O’Connor; P Lillis, E Cleary, E McMahon; P Collins, K Sexton, A Griffin. Subs: J McGann for Griffin, D Tubridy for Collins,
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)
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