City of Derry grab late McDonnell consolation against clinical Omagh

CRUCIAL KICK  . . .Alex McDonnell
CRUCIAL KICK . . .Alex McDonnell

All Ireland League Division 2C

Omagh 32, City of Derry 25

All Ireland League survival is now a five way battle with City of Derry right in the middle of it as another weekend of frustration yielded only a losing bonus point against a more clinical Omagh side at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields.

With Tullamore defeating Bangor, eight points now separate the bottom five sides from Tullamore in sixth position on 26 points to bottom placed Thomond on 18 points with Derry perched in eight on 23 points.

The scenario sets up a huge Ulster derby for Judges Road next week when Derry will be entertaining seventh placed Bangor who currently sit just two points above them.

That's one derby Derry can look forward to. This derby is one they'll probably want to forget.

The frustration for City of Derry was this was another game that was there for the taking. However, handling errors and misplaced passes handed a fast running Omagh back-line too many opportunities and with players like former Derry favourite, Ali Beckett, about, they were never going to pass them up.

Turning around 11-10 in front, Derry never made full use of the strong win which was in sharp contrast to the more experienced Omagh outfit in the second half.

The game hinged on a passage of play midway through the second half with Derry leading 15-18. Big Omagh second row Jamie Sproule had just been sent to bin with Derry deep inside the home '22'.

With the extra man, Derry's impatience saw possession thrown away. Omagh seized the chance with Beckett breaking half the length of the pitch to set up winger Matt Eccles to score in the corner.

The score visibly shook the visitors and Omagh capitalised with Ryan Mitchell adding another try after a superb Scott Elliott kick to the corner.

It wasn't all negative for Derry though who, for the second week in succession highlighted the spirit within their young ranks and the excellent Rory MacGinty danced over for his second brilliant try of the afternoon which left Alex McDonnell with a real pressure conversion in injury time to secure the bonus point.

The young out-half didn't disappoint to ensure Derry left with something of a consolation.

The visitors' post match mood will not have been helped by the loss of influential full-back Simon Logue to an ankle injury after half-time, an injury which could keep him out of next week's crunch derby. Indeed, his second half absence coincided with Omagh's long kicking game suddenly becoming a much more effective weapon.

That frustration was no where in sight when an impressive Derry opening almost yielded a try within the opening two minutes, the visitors eventually settling for a 0-3 lead courtesy of McDonnell's penalty.

Omagh responded in style though with concerted pressure that almost had them over the line twice before play was eventually switched right for Beckett to run around the cover and score for a 5-3 lead on 19 minutes.

With the wind behind them, Derry came again with a MacGinty break initially taking them into the Omagh half and, after going through the phases, play was switched left for James Perry to score in the corner.

Back came Omagh, this time Mitchell being the extra man to edged his side 10-8 in front only to see another McDonnell penalty give Derry a slender one point lead at half-time.

The game's third quarter was probably Derry's best of the game, MacGinty producing a moment of magic on 40 minutes to dance around four tackles and run in under the posts for the try of the match. With McDonnell converting Derry held a 10-18 lead.

Again, Omagh responded with an excellent try of their own after Derry had handed them back possession once too often. Elliott was the man pulling the strong again, producing a superb grubber kick in behind the Derry cover which allowed Mitchell to race through and score.

At 15-18 Derry went up a gear with Sproule's yellow card an indication of the pressure Omagh were under yards from their own line. It should have been the catalyst for Derry to drive home their advantage. Instead, what followed was the winning of the game for Omagh.

MacGinty's magic and McDonnell's nerve rescued a point but just how important it proves will depend the four league games to come.

Omagh: Kyle Alexander, Philip Ewing, Peter Todd, Mervyn Edgar, Kaine Holden, Michael Gibson, Adam Longwell, Matthew Clyde, Stewart McCain, Scott Elliott, Matthew Eccles, Luke Hanson, Scott Barr, Ryan Mitchell, Alistair Beckett.

(Replacements) Ethan McKeown, Mark Hopton-Brown, Jamie Sproule, Peter Scott, Eoin Murnaghan.

City of Derry: James Hamilton, David Ferguson, Barry Laverty, Adam Bratton, Conor McMenamin, Tiernan Thornton, Christopher Lamberton, Stephen Corr, Rory MacGinty, Alex McDonnell, Thomas Cole, James Perry, David Lapsley, Callum O'Hagan, Simon Logue.

(Replacements) Ross Harkin, Gerard Doherty, Paddy Owens, Jack Townley, Colin Campbell.

Referee: Marcus Casey (IRFU)