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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Pat Nolan

Derry still short of 'elite', says Ciaran Meenagh, as they see off Cork to move into another All-Ireland semi-final

Derry 1-12 Cork 1-8

It's successive All-Ireland semi-finals now for Derry, though they’re still not quite “elite”.

That’s what their interim manager Ciaran Meenagh was at pains to acknowledge as they eased back into the last four with as a comfortable four-point victory as you’re likely to see.

Indeed, it would have been much more but for some sloppy finishing late on, particularly from Shane McGuigan, who missed a penalty and kicked another two wides in injury time.

But, however they got there, it’s level par for Derry for the year, with a promotion to Division One thrown in too.

“We got to an All-Ireland semi-final last year, so it’s nice to get back there, we got promotion, won the McKenna Cup, and another Ulster title,” said Meenagh.

“I think there is some commentary out there that Derry aren’t among the elite teams, and that’s fair, but it’s our job now to get ourselves back and do ourselves slightly more justice than we did in last year’s semi-final.”

Meenagh was speaking before Derry had been paired with Kerry in the semi-final, where they were well beaten by Galway in the end last year.

Things have settled for them after the unrest generated by Rory Gallagher’s departure as manager, and all indications are that they’re a more formidable outfit going into the penultimate round than they were 12 months ago.

“If you looked at the corresponding fixture in the quarter-final against Clare we were very good. You have to take account of your opponents and all the rest.

“Are we better? I don’t know. Time will tell. But we’ve had as equally as good a year if not better this year.

“Have we shown some progress in terms of development of certain aspects of our play? I’d like to think so, particularly in terms of how we’re attacking.

“Those are things we looked at over the winter as a management team and that we’re practising.

“Do I see the players as having improved? I do. Have we got a stronger hand, a better bench? I think we have.

“Is there more confidence in the group because we’ve experience? Yeah, there is. But time will tell.”

There were three distinct periods in this game where they looked to have put a decisive wedge between the sides and though Cork closed to within a point twice, there was never any suggestion that Derry were in mortal danger.

Cork started more assertively in what was a typically cagey affair, but with the game being played on those terms, Derry were always more likely to prosper in the long run.

Ideally for Cork, they needed to build a lead and pose a different challenge to Derry but they were in front for only three minutes of the entire game following Colm O’Callaghan’s sixth minute opener, after they had dominated possession early on.

Derry were slicker in their counter-attack and more comfortable than Cork in attempting to break down a mass defence, as the teams aped each other by flooding their own half when out of possession.

By the 15th minute Derry were 0-3 to 0-1 clear and when they had doubled that advantage to 0-6 to 0-2 10 minutes later, with Paul Cassidy and Ethan Doherty both on 0-2 each, Cork were on the brink.

But, like they did against Roscommon eight days earlier, Cork hit three points before the break to seemingly change the complexion of the match as their efficiency improved, with Ruairi Deane and Kevin O’Donovan fisting points either side of a Steven Sherlock 45 to make it 0-6 to 0-5 at half-time.

It could have been turned on its head on the restart as a Matty Taylor pass to O’Callaghan didn’t come off when a goal was on, while Brian O’Driscoll spilled a goal effort wide in the 41st minute too.

But by then Derry were 0-8 to 0-5 in front and tagged on another point after that through McGuigan’s fourth free of the day.

Brendan Rogers, after a quiet first half, supplemented the midfield supremacy that Conor Glass had established but Cork struck for a fine goal through full-back Rory Maguire, bringing his tally to 1-4 for the last three games, as he cleverly flicker over Odhran Lynch from Conor Corbett’s pass in the 48th minute.

But Derry responded in kind immediately, with defenders Conor McCluskey and Conor Doherty combining, the latter dummying Deane brilliantly before applying a forward’s finish and stopping any Cork momentum in its tracks.

Derry's Conor Doherty celebrates with Shane McGuigan (©INPHO/John McVitty)

From there, it petered out harmlessly enough, with McGuigan rounding out a strangely subdued performance as his weak penalty was saved by Michael Martin after Taylor had pulled him down.

All told, a low-key victory to match the demeanour of their manager, if not his predecessor.

“I hadn’t time to settle in,” said Meenagh. “It’s been a rollercoaster seven weeks. The events of the week leading in to the Ulster final were exceptionally challenging.

“But, look it, I pride myself on taking things in my stride. I hate drama and I hate fuss. I just like getting on with things and that’s the way the players wanted it.

“I’ve been with Rory there for three full years. I saw how things were done. I was integral to everything. There were many hours and hours and hours of conversation with what I would consider the best brains in Gaelic football.

“Everything that would have happened, we would have ran through each other. We were exceptionally close as a team.

“It wasn’t as if it was somebody from outside or a management team from outside who were parachuted in for seven weeks – there was a lot of continuity there.

“How we do things now is exactly how we did things beforehand. I think that consistency and continuity is exactly what the group needed in very troubled times.”

DERRY: Odhran LYNCH 7; Christopher McKAIGUE 7, Eoghan McEVOY 7, Conor McCLUSKEY 8; Conor DOHERTY (1-0) 7, Gareth McKINLESS 8, Padraig, McGROGAN 7; Conor GLASS 8, Brendan ROGERS (0-2) 7; Niall TONER 6, Paul CASSIDY (0-2) 7, Ethan DOHERTY (0-2) 7; Ciaran McFAUL (0-1) 7, Shane McGUIGAN (0-4f) 6, Niall LOUGHLIN (0-1) 6.

Subs: Benny Heron for Toner (46), Lachlan Murray for Loughlin (56), Padraig Cassidy for McFaul (59), Shea Downey for McEvoy (66), Paul McNeill for Conor Doherty (70+3).

CORK: Michael Aodh MARTIN 7; Maurice SHANLEY 6, Rory MAGUIRE (1-0) 7, Tommy WALSH 7; Kevin O’DONOVAN (0-1) 7, Daniel O’MAHONY 6, Matty TAYLOR 7; Colm O’CALLAGHAN (0-2) 7, Ian MAGUIRE 7; Brian O’DRISCOLL 6, Ruairi DEANE (0-1) 7, Killian O’HANLON 6; Sean POWTER 5, Steven SHERLOCK (0-2 ‘45’) 6, Conor CORBETT 7.

Subs: Eoghan McSweeney (0-1) for O’Hanlon (40), Chris Og Jones (0-1) for Powter (50), Brian Hurley for Sherlock (54), John O’Rourke for O’Driscoll (59), Paul Walsh for Deane (66).

REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).


“I hadn’t time to settle in. It’s been a rollercoaster seven weeks. The events of the week leading in to the Ulster final were exceptionally challenging.”

Derry interim manager, Ciaran Meenagh.

STAR MAN - Conor Glass (Derry)

Dominant throughout as Derry built a platform for their victory at midfield, with partner Brendan Rogers growing into it in the second half. Will eye a big semi-final performance after slumping last year.

AN OTHER - Rory Maguire (Cork)

Having kicked 0-2 from full-back in each of Cork’s last two games against Mayo and Roscommon, Maguire struck for a goal in another impressive performance to cap his breakthrough season.


DERRY: Kerry, All-Ireland semi-final, July 15/16.

CORK: Their season is over.

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