SFC All-Ireland Quarter-Final: Derry v Clare (Today 3.45pm, Croke Park, Live on Sky Sports Arena)
THERE is overwhelming evidence that no matter what Clare does today, Derry will win this game.
It is contained in the contrast between how Derry won their Ulster title and how Clare saw Roscommon.
Watch exactly how and when both games were won.
In a cooking pot at St Tiernach’s Park, Donegal were playing their tenth provincial final in 12 years.
Rory Gallagher had exhausted what he felt was usable from his bench, dismissing Benny Heron and Niall Toner after taking them off earlier.
Against a team conditioned for a decade, Derry should have had nothing left. After 80 minutes, they were tied at 1-13 apiece.
Derry fired four shots in the second overtime. They scored three and saw a Benny Heron scoring opportunity brilliantly saved by Shaun Patton.
Shane McGuigan pointed the free 13 yards which was an advantage on this offense.
Brendan Rogers’ scoring to kick Derry in front on the right in the 90th minute was kicked 13 yards straight in front of goal. To create it, the Oak Leafers held the ball for two minutes and 50 seconds.
Conor Glass’s point to push them both flawlessly came from almost exactly the same spot.
Tired brains and exhausted limbs were inconsequential. That no one got a wild, tired whiplash in a hero effort was a display of incredible patience and discipline.
Clare displayed exactly the same kind of courage, but the 1-3 she scored in the final minutes was of the most spectacular variety.
In particular, Keelan Sexton’s nearly 50-yard free isn’t the kind of free you’d want to rely on every day.
The goal came from a long ball into the box that goes to a spare defender nine times out of ten these days. The Jamie Malone winner was equally stunning, well crafted and brilliantly finished, but it wasn’t the gimme Derry created for himself.
Back at Clones, apart from Michael Murphy’s desperate free-kick attempt from 13 yards out, Donegal also had three significant shots in that second extra period.
Hugh McFadden tried to shoot his left foot from nearly 30 yards out. Ciaran Thompson landed a monster point from nearly 40 yards out. Patrick McBrearty wasted an effort from 44 yards out.
It was the whole game in a snapshot. Derry took 28 shots against Donegal. 27 of them were within 30 yards of goal. Emmett Bradley kicked a point with the only exception.
They have been incredibly effective this summer. Their 61% shooting return against Donegal was the lowest ever, having been 64% against Tyrone and 70% against Monaghan.
Clare will defend with big numbers just like Derry will.
It would be lazy to say that the Munster side – who also beat Meath on their way here – won’t be as good as Tyrone, Monaghan or Donegal. Tyrone’s defensive form was non-existent all year. Monaghan played without any cover and got ripped on the break.
But Donegal knows how to defend. They didn’t do it as much under Declan Bonner but it’s ingrained in them. Club football in the county is defended first, score if you must.
“We have to play well and if we play well we will win,” Derry manager Rory Gallagher said earlier this week.
Words that draw the line between confidence and arrogance, but it is the language he has used for three years to publicly help train his players.
Clare were the better team against Roscommon during their second qualifying round periods.
They backed off with Ciarán Russell as sweeper and they forced Anthony Cunningham’s team to make bad decisions. Roscommon largely avoided contact and fired from positions they would not have intended to fire from.
Roscommon’s comeback from 1-17 was also tough on Clare’s defence. They were also kicking a lot outside the range, so much so that the yellow shirts would stand and think “well, if he wants to shoot from there, work on it”, only for the see fall between the posts.
Tonight’s quarter-final is Clare’s first since 2016 and Derry’s first since 2007. There’s a chance all the buzz from both counties will hit one or the other. There may not be any tweaking to the performance they would like, as this is a huge chance.
Perhaps even more for Clare than for Derry, because you think that while Derry’s age profile and run of strong minor teams suggests this is the first stay of what they hope will be many in Over the next decade, Clare worked for it. opportunity for the nine years at the head of Colm Collins.
They would have ripped your hand off to play Derry. If there was ever a day for a team to leave nothing inside, empty their guts at Croke Park and see what comes out in the end, then this is the day for Clare. And this emotional charge could propel them.
But if Derry really wants to exist in this top tier of football, the numbers have to tell the story when it’s over.
Derry’s raison d’etre is to take the emotion and the spark out of the opposition. They will bore Clare for 20 minutes, playing the ball over and over, making sure the banner has no ropes to grab and go into an all-Ireland semi-final with it.
It’s one thing to have the legs for close matches and another to have the head.
In beating Roscommon, Clare worked shots.
In beating Donegal, Derry worked nailed scores.
It will be the difference again at Croke Park today.
Derry at five o’clock.
TACTICAL GRIP: For Derry there are two big question marks as they enter the All-Ireland Series for the first time in 15 years. The first is how their game plan translates to Croke Park. Rory Gallagher has himself admitted the ground ‘plays differently’ to any other venue, but insists that based on their Division Three final win over Offaly last year he believes they will be comfortable. This is largely due to the fact that the main ground at their training base in Owenbeg has been laid out to match the dimensions of Croke Park. They are well used to the size of this one, but the occasion can make it very different. Derry kicked very few balls in Ulster and if there is room for Shane McGuigan, you might see some sooner. The second problem is their own evictions. They struggled to hold them back and it remains a major surprise that Donegal left them. But Clare’s own setup against Roscommon, with the return of Ciarán Russell, also relied on the kick concession. If they do it again, they give Derry a get out of jail card. Clare played two weeks ago with a style no different from the Ulster champions, relying on hard-hitting runners from deep. They had joy getting in behind Roscommon’s half-back line, but some of their shot selection was questionable. Colm Collins’ side will play a lot themselves, but their problem will penetrate Derry quite often in the right areas.
KEY BATTLE: Chrissy McKaigue vs. Keelan Sexton
TURNING 33 next month, it was inevitable that Chrissy McKaigue would be asked about retirement last week. This is exactly what happens when the first number is a three. The biggest compliment you could give him is that no one really believes he should even think about it at this point. Darren McCurry 0-2, Jack McCarron 0-1 (by one mark), Patrick McBrearty scoreless – it’s been a great summer by any measure and realistically leaves Slaughtneil’s man a good display from Croke Park of an Allstar. He will find himself against Keelan Sexton today, the Clare hero and 1-6 scorer against Roscommon (their first goal was definitely an own goal). Sexton was described by his own teammate Ciarán Russell this week as “a trustworthy player”, which McKaigue will have noted. He will ask his teammates not to give free facilities that will allow Sexton to fit into the game. If McKaigue continues his form, it will go a long way for Derry.
AR: Martin McNally (Monaghan)
A THIRD outing of the summer for the Corduff clubman. Supported Leitrim’s extra-time win over London at Ruislip before securing a second provincial final, facilitating Kerry’s victory over Limerick as he secured Dublin’s win over Kildare last year. You could argue that an All Ireland quarter-final is above either of these two provincial deciders, making it perhaps the biggest fixture of the player’s career 34 years to date.
WHERE TO WATCH: Sky Sports Arena, coverage from 3:15 p.m.
C McKaigue B Rogers
K Sexton A Graffin
C McCluskey P McGrogan S Downey
P Collins E Cleary E McMahon
G McKinless C Glass
D O’Neill C O’Connor
Paul Cassidy B Heron E Doherty
A Sweeney P Lillis J Malone
N Loughlin S McGuigan N Toner
C O’Dea M Doherty C Rouine