Allianz Football League Division Three Final
DERRY 0-21 OFFALY 1-6
Kevin Egan at Croke Park
Derry will go down in the record books as the only clear and undisputed Allianz League champions of 2021 after they comprehensively outplayed Offaly in this evening’s Division Three final at Croke Park.
Both these sides came through the round robin stages of the league unscathed with four wins in succession, but it was only the Oak Leaf men that brought that form to Jones Road this evening, as they dominated every area of the field and could have scored far more than they did. A series of goal chances went abegging in front of the Offaly goal, not least a penalty from Shane McGuigan with the last kick that was saved by stand in goalkeeper Peter Cunningham.
Defensively, Derry were outstanding in the tackle and turned over Offaly at close range time and again, particularly in the second half when Offaly were forced to chase goals in a bid to bridge the ever-increasing gap. At midfield, Conor Glass was the dominant influence under the dropping ball, while up front every starting forward scored, alongside both midfielders, two substitutes and captain Chrissy McKaigue.
There was hesitancy from both sides in the early stages, with Offaly registering three early wides while Derry created two goal chances that went abegging – both on the back of powerful driving runs from Gareth McKinless that opened up the Offaly defence.
Niall Loughlin finally opened Derry’s account in the seventh minute and the Ulster side had three on the board by the time Offaly finally broke their duck through Cian Farrell.
Outside of their Edenderry full-forward, Offaly’s attack was toothless, and they were reduced to speculative shots from distance that failed to find the target, while Derry too missed chances but still gradually pulled clear due to their clear monopolisation of possession. Pádraig Cassidy, Emmett Bradley and McKinless made considerable ground running through the centre and that in turn forced Offaly to foul opposition runners, leading to McGuigan and Loughlin building up their tally with four points each in the opening half.
There was a chink of light for the midlanders just before half-time when Niall McNamee, making his 150th appearance for the county this afternoon, combined with his cousin Rúairí McNamee to set up Eoin Carroll for the game’s only goal, and at 0-10 to 1-3 behind at half-time, Offaly were entitled to be quite happy to be so close, given the one-sided nature of the game.
A superb mark point from Niall McNamee immediately after half-time cut the gap to three, and it looked as if there might be a decent contest in store. Instead Derry ratcheted up the intensity, taking complete control of the kickouts on both sides, with Conor Glass imperious. The big Glen man seemed to contest every dropping ball, winning most of them, not to mention bursting forward after one of those contests to sweep the ball over the Davin End crossbar for a rousing score.
Opportunities for the Offaly attackers grew more and more scarce as Derry turned the screw, and seven points on the spin in the closing stages could have been even more, but for a disallowed goal and the missed penalty, both from Shane McGuigan. Failing to convert a single one of their goal openings will be a slight matter of concern for a county preparing for what will be a momentous Ulster quarter-final against either Down or Donegal. For Offaly, there’s just a week to address much more glaring issues in advance of a contest against Louth that looks far tougher today than it did yesterday.
Scorers for Derry: Shane McGuigan 0-7 (0-5f, 0-1 sideline), Niall Loughlin 0-4 (0-3f), Ethan Doherty 0-2, Emmet Bradley, Oisín McWilliams, Conor Glass, Benny Heron, Ciarán McFaul, Paul Cassidy, Chrissy McKaigue, Jack Doherty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Cian Farrell 0-4 (0-3f, 0-1m), Eoin Carroll 1-0, Niall McNamee (m) & Jordan Hayes 0-1 each.
DERRY: Oran Lynch; Conor McCluskey, Christopher McKaigue, Pádraig McGrogan; Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Pádraig Cassidy; Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley; Ethan Doherty, Niall Loughlin, Ciarán McFaul; Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Oisín Williams.
Subs: Paul Cassidy for Williams (40), Niall Toner for Heron (56), Jack Doherty for C Doherty (68), Ben McCarron for E Doherty (70+2).
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; James Lalor, Eoin Rigney, Niall Darby; Colm Doyle, Carl Stewart, Jordan Hayes; Peter Cunningham, Eoin Carroll; Shane Horan, David Dempsey, Anton Sullivan; Bernard Allen, Cian Farrell, Rúairí McNamee.
Subs: Niall McNamee for Allen (26), Cathal Mangan for Lalor (half-time), Aaron Leavy for Carroll (47), Bill Carroll for Horan (47), Joe Maher for R McNamee (53), Cian Donohoe for Hayes (53), Johnny Moloney for Sullivan (60).
Referee: Seán Lonergan (Tipperary)