Derry turned in a terrific performance to upset Division 2 favourites Laois 1-17 to 2-11 in a high quality game at Celtic Park.
The visitors found themselves 2-07 to 0-09 ahead at half-time - poor defending from Derry gifted goals to Ross Munnelly and Damien O’Connor.
But the Oak Leafers redoubled their efforts in the second half and Emmett McGuckin’s fisted goal turned the tide. Even in spite of James Kielt’s dismissal, Derry kept the ball well to eek out an important victory.
In a high-tempo start at a very wet Celtic Park, Derry hit the ground running and scores from Eoin Bradley, PJ McCloskey, Ryan Ferris and Emmett McGuckin helped them into an early 0-04 to 0-02 lead, with Gary Walsh and Padraig Clancy landing scores for Laois.
But Clancy’s influence on the game at full-forward began to grow and it was the constant link with Ross Munnelly that helped Laois garner scores from almost every attack they launched.
Two Munnelly scores from two Clancy lay-offs levelled it before Mark Lynch inexplicably passed the ball straight to Clancy, who fed Munnelly to slide beneath league debutant Thomas Mallon for the first goal.
Emmett McGuckin responded and, although a Walsh free kept the gap at three, Derry took control and scores from James Kielt (two, one free) and Eoin Bradley (free) deservedly brought the Oak Leafers level.
Before they could nose in front, however, they left a huge gap through the middle of their defence. Damien O’Connor surged through to unleash an unstoppable shot past Mallon from 12 yards.
Munnelly and Walsh added to Laois’ lead either side of an Eoin Bradley free, leaving the midlanders four up at the end of the half.
Derry began where they had left off but with Chrissy McKaigue getting to grips with Clancy and Munnelly fading, Brian McIver’s charges took complete control.
However, Laois were left rueing a controversial decision to disallow and effort from Munnelly that appeared to hit the back stanchion on the goal and come out, only for umpires to signal wide when Clancy put the follow up past the post.
They led by two at that stage and it wasn’t long until they were behind, with Emmett McGuckin getting enough on the ball to squeeze it beyond Eoin Culliton for Derry’s goal.
Bradley and James Kielt added points and in spite of the latter’s dismissal, the Oak Leafers were able to keep possession and hold on for the win.
DERRY: T Mallon; R Ferris (0-02), D McBride (0-01), C Kielt; C McKaigue, M Lynch (0-01), SL McGoldrick; Patsy Bradley, PJ McCloskey (0-01); B McGoldrick, E Lynn (0-01), J Kielt (0-03, 0-01f); C Devlin, E McGuckin (1-03, 0-02f), E Bradley (0-05, 0-03f).
Subs used: R Wilkinson for B McGoldrick (50 mins), B Heron for Ferris (53), D Heavron for Devlin (64).
LAOIS: E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, P O’Leary; D Strong (0-01), J O’Loughlin, C Boyle (0-01); B Quigley, C Begley; R Munnelly (1-03, 0-01f), G Walsh (0-03f), B Sheehan; D O’Connor, P Clancy (0-01), A Doran.
Subs used: D Booth for Healy (33 mins), C Kelly (0-01) for Doran (half-time), P McMahon (0-01) for Walsh (49), C Coss for Sheehan (59).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)