Derry ease to opening win over Down

Derry earned a dominant 1-10 to 0-6 win over Down in a low-key Division Two Football League opener at Owenbeg.

Rory Gallagher paraded a much more experienced Derry line-up which never really looked like being beaten after Niall Loughlin’s 18th-minute goal.

Kevin Small’s second-half goal helped Armagh beat Fermanagh 1-14 to 0-8 in the Division Three game at Enniskillen.

The Saffrons were more economical in possession and pulled away after leading 0-6 to 0-3 at half-time.

At a wet Owenbeg, Loughlin’s put Derry 1-3 to 0-2 ahead and the margin was increased to 1-6 to 0-4 by half-time.

Caolan Mooney had a Down goal chance cleared off the line after the break but Derry were quickly back in control.

Ciaran McFaul, so superb for Glen in the Derry title triumph and Ulster Club Championship run last autumn, kicked two fine points for the Oak Leafers with corner-back Chrissy McKaigue dominating his match-up with Down dangerman Barry O’Hagan, but this was not a game that will live long in the memory.

Ciaran McFaul attempts to get past Liam Kerr at Owenbeg
Ciaran McFaul kicked a couple of excellent points for Derry in the low-scoring contest

Down badly missing Kilcoo contingent

Down’s display emphasised the importance of getting as many of possible Kilcoo players into James McCartan’s squad following the All-Ireland Club Final against Kilmacud Crokes on 13 February.

McCartan, starting his second stint at Down boss, named a side that had eight changes in personnel from their heavy Ulster Championship defeat by Donegal last June but while a couple of the newcomers showed up well, it was not a particularly encouraging night for the Mournemen at the wet Dungiven venue.

Derry manager Gallagher started with 12 of the team that had taken to the field against Donegal in last summer’s last-gasp Ulster quarter-final defeat with the only changes the inclusion of Conor McCluskey and League debutants Lachlan Murray and Matthew Downey.

Downey started nervously as he missed an early free and the pick of the early scores was a towering point from Paul Cassidy from a tight angle which helped the home side into a 0-2 to 0-1 lead.

Unlike their opponents, Down were keen to attempt long balls early on and one did help produce Darren O’Hagan’s 14th-minute equalise as he gathered a break to fire over a levelling snapshot.

But Padraig McGrogan restored Derry’s lead and then came the goal as Conor Glass’ burst put the Down defence under pressure before quick hands from Conor Doherty and Shane McGuigan set up Loughlin to drop kick the ball to the roof of the Down net.

Murray’s excellent point helped stretch Derry’s advantage to five by half-time and while Mooney’s goal attempt, which was brilliant cleared by Ethan Doherty, was followed by an Andrew Gilmore point, Down didn’t score again until injury-time when the same forward was on target.

Derry successfully pushed up on Rory Burns’ kickouts throughout the contest and one of them should have resulted in a second Oak Leaf goal as McGuigan…

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