Dublin’s unbeaten start to their Allianz National Football League came to an end in Celtic Park on Saturday evening, as they succumbed to Derry by the slimmest of margins.
The visitors looked well set for victory as they dominated the opening half and that supremacy was reflected on the scoreboard as they enjoyed a hardly flattering 0-7 to 0-2 interval lead.
However, an improved and more determined display from Derry after the break saw Dublin’s lead gradually eroded and the hosts maintained that momentum to kick the winning score through Brendan Rogers deep into injury time.
The dismissal of Michael Fitzsimons moments earlier left Dublin numerically short in that final play and Rogers availed superbly to split the posts and maintain his team’s perfect record as they seek promotion to the top flight.
Cormac Costello had already opened Dublin’s scoring in the first minute before James McCarthy burst through on goal but failed to get the required direction from the outside of the boot as the ball rolled harmlessly across the Derry square before being cleared.
The hosts levelled matters through Paul Cassidy in the 5th minute but that point proved their solitary return from open play of the half as they registered a series of poor wides in the ensuing ten minutes.
It was Costello that restored Dublin’s lead as he palmed over from Brian Fenton’s point attempt and an excellent Lee Gannon point saw the visitors push 0-3 to 0-1 clear by the 12th minute.
Con O’Callaghan played in a more withdrawn role for the duration but that didn’t prevent him adding to Dublin’s lead three minutes later before Shane McGuigan replied through a free at the end of the first quarter.
Dublin looked far more assured in their play with Fenton playing a key role in setting the tone and the Raheny player showcased his talents with two points in quick succession, one a fisted effort after a raid down the right flank while the other was curled superbly off his left foot from thirty metres.
Derry did spurn a presentable goal chance however in the 26th minute as Niall Loughlin raced through but David O’Hanlon was quick off his line and made the type of save that has enhanced his reputation as the season has evolved.
A John Small point in the 31st minute kept Dublin on the front foot but it was highly unlikely that their opponents would be as passive as the teams returned for the second-half.
So it proved, despite a 37th minute score from Tom Lahiff, who palmed over for the opening point of the half.
Derry’s increased intensity, and the introduction of Gareth McKinless helped yield points for Ethan Doherty and Loughlin, with the lively Gannon kicking a cracking point at the opposite end by way of riposte.
McKinless was central to Derry’s goal in the 45th minute, as he eased inside Dublin’s left flank and while Loughlin failed to convert from close range, Niall Toner reacted quickest to drive home from six yards.
The hosts kept punching holes in the Dublin defence, drawing level through Conor Doherty and Paul Cassidy before Ciarán Kilkenny edged Dublin back in front with a trademark point from distance.
Substitute Oisin McWilliams showed his class with a superb score to tie proceedings but when Dublin responded through points from Colm Basquel and Kilkenny, they looked to have broken the Derry resolve.
However, McGuigan converted two frees to restore the deadlock and his team took the lead in the 69th minute as Lachlan Murray fired over a superb score.
Costello looked to have salvaged a share of the spoils for Dublin when kicking a straightforward free soon after.
But there was to be one final twist with Rogers proving the hero for Derry at the death.
Scorers – Dublin: C Costello 0-3 (1f); L Gannon, B Fenton, C Kilkenny 0-2 each, C Basquel, C O’Callaghan, J Small, T Lahiff 0-1 each. Derry: S McGuigan 0-3 (3f), N Toner 1-0, Paul Cassidy 0-2, C Doherty, B Rogers, E Doherty, N Loughlin (f), O McWilliams, L Murray 0-1 each.
Dublin: D O’Hanlon; D Byrne, M Fitzsimons, E Murchan; J Small, L Gannon, D Newcombe; J McCarthy, B Fenton; T Lahiff, C O’Callaghan, C Kilkenny; L O’Dell; D Rock, C Costello. Subs: N Scully for O’Dell (43), C Basquel for Lahiff (54), S Lowry for Rock (58), B Howard for McCarthy (64).
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, E McEvoy, C McCluskey; C Doherty, P McGrogan, Padraig Cassidy; C Glass, B Rogers; B Herron, E Doherty, N Toner; N Loughlin, S McGuigan, Paul Cassidy. Subs: G McKinless for Padraig Cassidy (half-time), O McWilliams for Herron (50), L Murray for Toner (60), S Downey for McEvoy (66), B Herron for Loughlin (72).
Referee – Sean Hurson (Tyrone)