New Beginnings

New beginnings for Mickey Harte and Derry as they beat Cavan in season opener

Paul Cassidy hits four from play as Ulster champions get season off to winning start.

Derry 0-15

Cavan 1-10

WHEN THE SEAGULLS, as Eric Cantona once philosophised, follow ze (sorry) trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

There were many beaks agape in Kingspan Breffni on Wednesday evening, all there straining for a glimpse of Mickey Harte in a Derry coat. Wearing the crest. Urging his new team on.

A packed press box, with cameras stationed at the entrance for Harte alighting from the Chambers team bus and into the old ground, with county chairman John Keenan by his side.

Thirty-three seasons on from his first appointment as the Tyrone minor manager with unbroken service to his native county of 30 years, followed by the stunning move of taking Louth and pushing them two rungs up the league ladder and into a Leinster final.

And now this. The greatest surprise of all. Mickey Harte, Derry manager. We’ll get used to it someday. Just not yet.

Let’s not kid ourselves, folks. This was a Derry team, but not THE Derry team. Only six players that played against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final last summer were starting here.

Chrissy McKaigue was on the bench and a vocal presence there on a frigid evening.

Brendan Rogers, fresh from getting married on 27 December, was among the subs. All-Stars Conor McCluskey and Gareth McKinless were nowhere in sight. Another All-Star in Shane McGuigan started on the bench.

Goalkeeper Odhran Lynch is continuing to rehab after tearing his hamstring in the county final defeat to Glen.

Needless to say, Glen’s Conor Glass and Ciaran McFaul have Sunday’s All-Ireland club semi-final with Kilmacud Crokes this Sunday.

All this background and you’d have almost missed the fact that Raymond Galligan was making his debut as the Cavan manager. Jumping straight from the pitch onto the sideline is a rare thing indeed but not unheard of. The last time we might have seen it was Kieran McGeeney retiring from Armagh and fetching up as Kildare manager within months.

Galligan hasn’t been without his issues in his first few months. In the local paper The Anglo Celt, he noted that everyone he reached out to had responded favourably. All the same, Gearoid McKiernan has not returned.

The first half was lit up by three Paul Cassidy points, but the most noticeable element was the use of Derry goalkeeper Jack Cassidy. He wasn’t even his club Slaughtneil’s first-choice goalkeeper at the start of last summer, but he made more plays than any other player as he dominated possession in the first half.

For Cavan’s part, they were determined to punish Cassidy’s roving outfield. On numerous occasions they sent long balls upfield after lying deep. In one such move, Padraig Faulkner – moved from full-back to a new berth in midfield – attempted a shot from 65 metres but the patchy surface was against him and it fell well short. 

niall-carolan-and-patrick-mcgurk Niall Carolan advancing ahead of debutant Patrick McGurk. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Going in 0-7 to 0-4 up at the break, Derry felt in control but there were a few goal chances from Cavan that were passed up, not least from Niall Carolan who showcased a winter well spent in the gym to hold off several Derry tackles to carry the ball 50 metres, but his shot couldn’t match the approach work. 

Eight minutes into the second half, the narrative took a sharp veer off track. Cavan overturned Eoin McEvoy high up the pitch. Padraig Faulkner zoned in on goal before dishing off to substitute Gerry Smith who slipped it into the net to take the lead for the first time, 1-7 to 0-9. 

However, there isn’t a man in this world who takes the Dr McKenna Cup as seriously as Mickey Harte. He won 12 of them with Tyrone. And so he looked over his shoulder and went looking for reinforcements in Slaughtneil All-Stars McKaigue and McGuigan.

Soon after, Niall Loughlin spotted McGuigan lurking on the left wing with the entire side emptied. A quick free and McGuigan cleverly made ground with a solo put away out in front of him. When he collected he aimed for the crossbar and it clipped it on the way over. Paul Cassidy chalked up his fourth soon after. Padraig McGrogan and Donncha Gilmore added points, and Derry’s lead had a cushion once again. 

Cavan were game. They kept going but the shape of the game became baggy as Galligan used seven substitutes. After their goal they scored three more points, but all of them were frees from Patrick Lynch.

It’s a start. For all concerned.  

Scorers for Derry: Paul Cassidy 0-4, Ben McCarron 0-2, Shane McGuigan 0-2 (1 free), Niall Toner 0-2, (1 free), Diarmuid Baker, Padraig McGrogan, Donncha Gilmore, Ruairi Forbes, Cahir McMonagle 0-1 each.  

Scorers for Cavan: Patrick Lynch 0-5 (5 frees), Gerard Smith 1-0, Oisin Brady 0-2, Jason McLoughlin, Padraig Faulkner, Oisin Kiernan 0-1 each. 



1. Jack Cassidy (Slaughtneil)

2. Diarmuid Baker (Steelstown)

3. Eoin McEvoy (Magherafelt)

4. Conor McGrogan (Newbridge)

5. Conor Doherty (Newbridge)

6. Padraig McGrogan (Newbridge)

7. Patrick McGurk (Lavey)

8. Dan Higgins (Magherafelt)

9. Donncha Gilmore (Steelstown)

10. Ruairí Forbes (Ballinderry)

11. Declan Cassidy (Bellaghy)

12. Paul Cassidy (Bellaghy)

13. Ben McCarron (Steelstown)

14. Niall Loughlin (Greenlough)

15. Niall Toner (Lavey)


 21. Mark Doherty for McGurk (51m)

18. Shane McGuigan for McCarron (51m)

19. Christopher McKaigue for Conor McGrogan (55m)

17. Cahir McMonagle for Toner (67m)

23. Ryan McNicholl for P Cassidy (74m)


1. Liam Brady (Ramor)

2. Oisin Kiernan (Denn)

3. Killian Brady (Mullahoran)

4. Cormac McKeogh (Mullahoran)

5. Jason McLoughlin (Shannon Gaels)

6. Niall Carolan (Cuchulainns)

7. Brian O’Connell (Ramor)

8. James Galligan (Lacken)

9. Padraig Faulkner (Kingscourt)

10. Oisin Kiernan (Castlerahan)

11. Tiarnan Madden (Gowna)

12. Ryan Donohoe (Gowna)

13. Patrick Lynch (Crosserlough)

14. James Smith (Crosserlough)

15. Oisin Brady (Killygarry)


24. Liam Fay for Donohoe (HT)

18. Gerard Smith for K Brady (HT)

19. Cormac Timoney for O’Connell (55m)

26. Caoimhin O’Reilly for James Smith (55m)

20. Peter Smith for Carolan (59m)

25. Jack Tully for Madden (63m)

 21. Mark Magee for McLoughlin (63m)

17. Emmanuel Shehu for Faulkner (68m)

Referee: James Lewis (Fermanagh)

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