Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Derry retain Bank of Ireland McKenna Cup

January 21st, 2024

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Final

Derry 0-12 Donegal 0-6


Mickey Harte picked up his first trophy as Derry manager with a Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final victory over Donegal at O’Neills Healy Park.

His return to Omagh, renewed a love affair with the competition, which he won a dozen times with his native county.

This was also a 13th success for the Oak Leafers, who produced an impressive display in a game that saw three players sent off in the second half, two of them from Donegal.

Donegal went ahead in the eighth minute when goalkeeper Gavin Mulreany drilled a 47 metre free between the posts, despite driving wind blowing in his face.

Shane McGuigan converted from a free to bring the sides level on 12 minutes, but the holders were soon on the back foot as Caolan McGonagle surged forward from deep and the incisive runs of wings backs Ryan McHugh and Peadar Mogan caused problems for the Derry defence.

Donegal did create a goal chance , but newcomer Domhnall MacGiolla Bhride slipped at the crucial moment as he attempted to collect Mogan’s pass.

Declan Cassidy fired over the game’s first score from play to nudge Derry ahead for the first time in the 19th minute, and McGuigan’s accuracy from placed balls saw them open out a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.

McHugh was on target with a neat score at the other end, and Paddy McBrearty’s free narrowed the gap.

Jim McGuinness would have been delighted to reach the halfway stage with just a two points deficit, 0-5 to 0-3, after playing into the stiff breeze.

Derry’s movement was slick as they held possession and prised open the opposition defence, with McGuigan providing the final pass for Paul Cassidy to split the posts.

All-Star McGuigan put four between the sides with another free within five minutes of the restart, and with another All-Star, Conor McCluskey, pressing strongly, they went further ahead through substitute Niall Toner

The experience of Brendan Rogers helped the Ulster champions dominate possession as they moved with cohesion and purpose.

Substitute Daire Ó Baoill scored with his first touch to give Donegal some much-needed respite.

Both sides were reduced to 14 players late in the third quarter. Derry lost Rogers to a straight red card following an incident, and as a brief melee erupted, Donegal captain McBrearty also saw red.

It was Donegal, who reacted more smartly to the series of incidents, with ‘keeper Mulreany landing a monster free from 58 metres, and they exploited the extra space to gain ground and stretch their north-west neighbours.

But Derry’s well organised cover restricted the damage, and McGuigan made light of the gusting wind to maintain his accuracy from frees, and sending his side into the final five minutes with a five points cushion.

Donegal full forward Oisin Gallen picked up a second booking, and there was no way back as the men in red and white  closed ranks with clever use of the spare man, although they did need a smart save late on from Odhran Lynch to deny Ó Baoill.

Derry: O Lynch; D Baker, E McEvoy, C McKaigue; C McCluskey, G McKinless, P McGrogan; C Doherty (0-1), B Rogers; D Gilmore, D Cassidy (0-1), P Cassidy (0-1); N Loughlin (0-1), S McGuigan (0-6, 6fs), C Murphy (0-1).

Subs: N Toner for McEvoy (h-t), S Downey for McCluskey (69).

Donegal: G Mulreany (0-2, 2f); M Curran, D MacGiolla Bhride, K McGettigan; R McHugh (0-1), C McGonagle, P Mogan (0-1); O Caulfield, C Thompson; O Doherty, S O’Donnell, C Moore; P McBrearty (0-1, f), O Gallen, J Brennan.

Subs: D O Baoill (0-1) for Caulfield (48), R Frain for Brennan (53) S McGlynn for Doherty (58) J McKelvey for O’Donnell (58), S McMenamin for Curran (69).

Referee: C Curran (Down).

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