Preview: Derry’s latest national barometer

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final
Derry v Cork
Sunday, Croke Park, 1.45pm
Live on RTÉ

By Michael McMullan

“They may not appreciate it when I say it, but Derry needed this All-Ireland a lot more than Cork did.”

The words of Derry captain Henry Downey followed the 1993 All-Ireland final, the last time the Oakleaf County crossed paths with Cork in championship action.

There is no silverware up for grabs on Sunday, but the local narrative in Derry has centred on a favourable draw. In terms of Mayo being league champions and Tyrone finding form at the right time, a scanning eye might pick up an element of the Division One teams being a bit further down the road.

Scratch the surface and nothing can be further than the truth. This is 50-50. Cork won the McGrath Cup in Munster, hitting five goals past Kerry in the process.

Derry targeted and won the McKenna Cup. While Derry backed up their promotion to the top flight with a second successive lifting of the Anglo Celt Cup, Cork have the better current form.

There wasn’t much to read into the 1-14 all draw on the league’s final Sunday. Cork had 11 of the team from last weekend on board, while Derry rested six players after they had secured promotion the previous week

The fact Derry didn’t even book a bus for the trip south tells you enough about their preparation. After a week off, players made their own way to Cork from the four winds – including flights back into the country.

After their Munster Championship failure against Clare, the Rebels are back on the horse and well seated at that.

They hit 1-19 against a Louth team that gave Derry an acid league test in Ardee. They went toe to toe with Kerry before coming from the depths of despair to beat Mayo and didn’t blink in the closing stages of their win over Roscommon.

Looking at the numbers, Derry have scored an average of 1-14 in their 18 games this season while shipping 1-10 per game. Cork are similar. In 15 games, they’ve bagged 2-14 on average with the concession of 1-13 per outing. It’s only numbers, but it’s a barometer of sorts.

In Micheál Aodh Martin, Cork have a game-changer in goals. His save from Shane McGuigan led to the counterattack for Ian Maguire’s equalising goal in a six-point swing as the clock ticked into the 78th minute of injury time in the league clash.

He made vital saves last weekend against the Rossies and when forced to kick long, Cork had enough skyscrapers to pluck ball in the middle.

Midfielder Colm O’Callaghan is Cork’s fourth top scorer with 3-12, while Conor Glass and Brendan Rogers’ combined total amounts to 1-17.

Cork have danger coming from deep. Sean Powter may wear number 13, but he has hit 4-8 as a reinvented runner from deep. With Derry – like most teams – dropping everyone when out of possession, any plan will need to account for the runs of full-back Rory Maguire who has kicked 0-4 across two wins over Division One teams.

In attack, Shane McGuigan is in All-Star form but the rest of his help is scattered across their attack from width and depth approach, with a point or two here and there from Niall Toner and Niall Loughlin. Paul Cassidy has grown into a pacy and intelligent middle third player who has amassed 1-24 from play.

In attack, Cork’s punch has more of a spread. Brian Hurley missed a chunk of the league and sat out the win over Roscommon with a troublesome hamstring problem with John Cleary telling the Southern Star, Hurley is “50-50” for Sunday’s meeting with Derry. He is listed on the bench, while Luke Fahy misses out through injury.

Cork have Steven Sherlock, Eoghan McSweeney and impact man Chris Óg Jones to add to the attacking riches that saw them as the second top scorers – three points behind Leitrim – across all four divisions of the league.

In defence, Derry are boosted with Chrissy McKaigue being “all good” for the weekend. The All-Star defender picked up a knock in the early stages of the Donegal game and sat out the win over Clare as a precaution.

Manager Ciaran Meenagh has been hit with the news a recurrence of a tibia stress fracture has ruled out impact man Oisin McWilliams for the rest of the season and Matthew Downey remains a “long-term” absentee.

Sub goalkeeper Ryan Scullion – who made his only senior appearance against Cork this season – is close to a return after an operation on a dislocated finger but former goalkeeper Thomas Mallon returned to train with the squad since the Donegal game as cover. Derry will wear the favourites tag provincial champions always earn, but one glance at Galway’s demise last weekend will sound the alarm bells.

Wins over Leitrim, Offaly and Clare by an average of 12 points represent Derry’s last three wins at Croke Park. With the standards considerably higher, the Oaks were in the groove until Galway turned up the heat last year. Things were ticking until Dublin’s first league final goal at HQ. Sunday is the latest barometer of Derry’s national standing.


2023 Cork 1-14 Derry 1-14 (Páirc Uí Chaoimh)
A LATE goal from Ian Maguire salvaged a point for Cork against a Derry team with promotion already secured before their trip south.
Rory Gallagher made six changes but it was an ankle injury to Chrissy McKaigue that would keep him out of their league final defeat to Dublin.
The seven added minutes were just up when Cian Kiely lofted in a high ball and Maguire was credited with the final touch to the net.
The Rebels had been down to 14 men for that final minute, with Luke Fahy black-carded. It could even have been a goal at the other end only for Mícheál Aodh Martin to make a crucial charge off the line to deny Shane McGuigan before Cork worked the ball down field.
Cork outscored the visitors 1-6 to 0-1 in the final 24 minutes and their place in the Sam Maguire was secure after clinching fourth place in the table.

Cork: MA Martin; K O’Donovan (0-2), S Meehan, T Walsh; L Fahy, R Maguire, M Taylor; C O’Callaghan (0-2), I Maguire (1-0); B O’Driscoll, K O’Hanlon (0-2), R Deane; C Óg Jones (0-1), S Powter, S Sherlock (0-4f)
Subs: C Corbett (0-3, 1f) for S Sherlock (54), J O’Rourke for C Jones (55), M Cronin for B O’Driscoll (58), C Kiely for M Taylor (58), P Walsh for K O’Hanlon (70+6)

Derry: R Scullion; P McNeill, P McGrogan (0-1), C McCluskey; S Downey (1-1), G McKinless, Pádraig Cassidy; Paul Cassidy (0-1), B Rogers (0-1); B McCarron, N Toner (0-3), E Doherty (0-2); M Downey, S McGuigan (0-4, 1f), L Murray (0-1)

Subs: C Glass for B McCarron (40), C McKaigue for P McNeill (54), C McGuckian for M Downey (55), C Doherty for C McKaigue (INJ 60), D Cassidy for L Murray (64)

2023 Cork 1-14 Derry 1-14 – NFL Div 2
2022 Derry 1-13 Cork 0-7 – NFL Div 2
2020 Cork 3-13 Derry 3-11 – NFL Div 3
2017 Derry 2-10 Cork 0-20 – NFL Div 2
Derry 2-15 Cork 1-11 – NFL Div 1



McKenna Cup
Fermanagh 1-4 Derry 0-11
Derry 0-10 Tyrone 0-10
Down 3-9 Derry 1-15 (Derry won 3-2 on penalties)
Derry 3-11 Tyrone 1-5

Derry 0-16 Limerick 0-4
Louth 1-11Derry 2-11
Derry 2-15 Meath 1-7
Kildare 0-7 Derry 2-15
Derry 1-11 Dublin 0-13
Derry 0-14 Clare 0-4
Cork 1-14 Derry 1-14
Dublin 4-6 Derry 0-11

Fermanagh 2-8 Derry 3-17
Derry 1-21 Monaghan 2-10
Derry 1-15 Armagh 0-18 AET (Derry win 3-1 on penalties)
Derry 0-14 Monaghan 0-14
Donegal 1-15 Derry 3-14
Derry 1-19 Clare 1-13


McGrath Cup
Cork 5-11 Kerry 0-14
Cork 2-10 Clare 0-8
Cork 0-19 Limerick 2-7

Cork 0-19 Meath 3-14
Kildare 0-7 Cork 2-14
Cork 2-10 Dublin 0-18
Cork 6-18 Limerick 0-12
Clare 1-8 Cork 3-10
Louth 1-10 Cork 0-10
Cork 1-14 Derry 1-14

Clare 0-14 Cork 0-13
Louth 1-17 Cork 1-19
Cork 0-15 Kerry 1-14
Mayo 1-11 Cork 1-14
Cork 1-14 Roscommon 0-16


Shane McGuigan 5-100 (3 pens, 49f, 3m, 1 45)
Niall Toner 3-30 (14f)
Paul Cassidy 1-24

Stephen Sherlock 2-68 (42f, 5 45)
Brian Hurley 2-44 (22f, 4m, 1 45)
Chris Óg Jones 2-20

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