Preview: Derry head into the west

All-Ireland SFC
Galway v Derry
Saturday, Salthill, 5.30pm
Live on GAA GO

By Michael McMullan

DERRY went from box office to off Broadway with two swings of Shaun Patton’s boot.

It was a proper hero to zero afternoon when the league champions and the most consistent team in the land were smashed to smithereens.

Even when Patton was forced out during last month’s Celtic Park championship showdown and Gavin Mulreaney stepped in, he humped a long ball that saw Jamie Brennan on his way to stabbing a fourth dagger in the Derry heart.

Things didn’t get any better for Derry five days later. Paudi McGrogan ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee in a routine exercise at training.

It leaves Derry going to Salthill without one of their nailed on starters. In a world where goalkeeper Connor Gleeson’s calling card is to boom kick-outs long, McGrogan will be a loss. It’s just the second game he’ll miss since the start of Rory Gallagher’s tenure at the heel of 2019.

The Derry squad have also lost Conleth McGuckian and Matthew Downey who have stepped away. That’s on top of Cormac Murphy’s quad injury Mickey Harte classified as “three or four weeks” in the aftermath of the Donegal defeat. That puts the Rossa man in the race against time category.

There is also the poor record against Galway to content with. Of the four championship meetings, the Tribesmen have won them all. A Croke Park hammering in 1998. Three years later Matthew Clancy’s goal hit them for six and their best chance of a second All-Ireland was gone.

Galway prevailed in the rain of Salthill in 2015 when Brendan Rogers’ tug on Johnny Duane was deemed cynical by Conor Lane in the era when a black card spelt the end of the afternoon.

More recently, under Rory Gallagher and with Rogers to the fore, Derry tore Galway apart in the first half of the 2022 All-Ireland semi-final but didn’t finish them off. When Derry couldn’t get hands on the ball in the third quarter, Galway pulled clear in a five-point win.

Another thing Derry need to do is keep a clean sheet. Céin D’Arcy’s goal in the league meeting earlier this season was the 22nd Galway registered against Derry in league and championship since Shane O’Kane kept the last clean sheet in 2007.

It was an afternoon when a severely depleted Galway squad were hit with a controversial black card for Kieran Molloy for a foul on Diarmuid Baker leading to a penalty Shane McGuigan slotted home to turn the game.

Since then, Galway have made an incremental climb. They maintained their league status as their walking wounded returned.

There was a hammering dished out to London and semi-finala battle with Sligo before their Connacht final win over Mayo.

It was a performance built on Damien Comer as their attacking fulcrum with Rob Finnerty and later Shane Walsh playing off them.

There was a return for Mattie Tierney and John Maher in the middle third with Cillian McDaid also back on the bench.

Derry’s win over Galway was the first milestone of the year. After going all in with their squad, staying afloat in their first season back in the top flight was priority.

Then came the all-action league final against the Dubs that went all the way to penalties with Derry failing to finish Dessie Farrell’s side off from two positions of strength.

Donegal were 182 days in the long grass since the championship draw was made and preyed on Derry’s aggressive kick-out press that saw Odhrán Lynch operating at midfield.

The decommissioning of Derry came on three fronts. The pace of Patton’s kick-outs. Gleeson kicks long but not as direct.

The second was Derry’s positioning for the breaking ball. Had they broke even, Donegal don’t have the same ownership of the ball and Ryan McHugh doesn’t have the ammo to run at Derry with.

Both elements can be tweaked and it’s hard to see how Derry won’t. It will have been festering in recent weeks.

The third element is how Donegal’s narrow defending cut out the gaps for Ethan Doherty to get them with. And without the goal threat, Derry were less of a force.

Johnny McGrath did a sound job on Shane McGuigan in the league meeting but that’s only one reading. A deeper look takes in the Galway collective defending that day. The pockets of space were not there.

Saturday is the start of the All-Ireland crusade. The perception tells a different story.

For Derry, the hope will be how it can represent a clean slate of sorts. After winning a third Connacht title, Galway will view it as a springboard.

No matter how you view it, this is a crossroads for Derry. Win and it’s a passport to a journey towards topping the group. Lose and the next month will be an exercise in chasing their tail.

This group is a living example of why winning your provincial title is paramount.


2024 – Derry 3-10 Galway 1-11
AN early goal from Eoin McEvoy shot Derry on their way to another win to clinch their top-flight status at a windy Salthill.

Céin D’Arcy finished well to the net for a depleted home side who then lost Kieran Molloy to a black card with Shane McGuigan nailing penalty for the key score in a Derry win.

Galway: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, S Mulkerrin; D McHugh, J Daly (0-1), K Molloy; D O’Flaherty (0-1), J Maher; J Heaney (0-1f), C D’Arcy (1-0), C Sweeney; R Finnerty (0-5, 4fs), N Daly (0-1), L Ó Conghaile.
Subs: S Kelly for Darcy, J Glynn for Molloy, C Ó Curraoin (0-2, 1f) for Ó Conghaile, R Cunningham for Finnerty, P Egan for Sweeney

Derry: R Scullion; C McCluskey, C McKaigue, D Baker; C Doherty, E McEvoy (1-0), P McGrogan; C Glass (0-3, 1m), B Rogers (0-1); E Doherty, C McFaul (0-1), P Cassidy (1-1, 1f); N Loughlin (0-1), S McGuigan (1-2, 1-0 pen, 2f), D Cassidy.
Subs: N Toner for C Doherty, D Gilmore (0-1) for D Cassidy, L Murray for Loughlin, E Mulholland for P Cassidy

2024 Derry 3-10 Galway 1-11 – NFL Div 1
2022 Galway 2-8 Derry 1-6 – All-Ireland SFC semi-final
2022 Galway 4-11 Derry 0-12- NFL Div 2
2017 Galway 5-15 Derry 2-15 – NFL Div 2
2016 Galway 1-18 Derry 2-12 – NFL Div 2



Derry 1-10 Cavan 0-15
Derry 0-13 Down 0-10
Derry 0-12 Donegal 0-6

Kerry 2-8 Derry 0-15
Derry 1-12 Tyrone 0-9
Derry 3-17 Monaghan 0-13
Galway 1-11 Derry 3-10
Derry 1-11 Dublin 1-16
Mayo 2-13 Derry 3-15
Roscommon 1-9 Derry 2-19
Dublin 2-21 Derry 3-18 AET(Derry won 3-1 on penalties)

Derry 0-17 Donegal 4-11


Leitrim 1-17 Galway 2-18
Roscommon 2-25 Galway 0-13

Galway 0-10 Mayo 2-12
Roscommon 0-9 Galway 0-9
Tyrone 0-12 Galway 1-13
Galway 1-11 Derry 3-10
Monaghan 0-14 Galway 3-12
Galway 0-14 Dublin 0-22
Kerry 0-15 Galway 1-10

Galway 5-21 London 0-9
Galway 1-13 Sligo 0-14
Galway 0-16 Mayo 0-15


Shane McGuigan 3-69 (44f, 2-0 pen)
Paul Cassidy 1-17 (1f)
Eoin McEvoy 3-5

Cillian Ó Curraoin 0-40 (25f, 1m, 1 45)
Rob Finnerty 1-32 (15f, 4m)
Rory Cunningham 3-5 (1f)

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