Friday, 30 September 2011

Lynch's overwhelming favourites in Derry

Ex-Lavey manager Tom Magill

When I was growing up (and I’m not that old), I always remember Lavey being the force in hurling. During the 90s they were the dominant team with everyone else playing catch-up. From 1990 to 1999 Lavey won seven titles, with Kevin Lynch’s (1996, 1998) and Slaughtneil (1993) taking the Fr Collins Cup on the other occasions.

When I think of those teams, the names of note included Ollie Collins, Mickey Collins, Seamus Downey, Henry Downey and Brian McCormick. The list goes on, with manager Tom Magill (right) central to much of their success. During that time Lavey won the football championship three times, including the double in 1990 and 1992. Not to mention an All-Ireland Club title in 1991. This really was a golden age in Lavey.

They played hurling with the minimum of fuss and made it look easy. I remember being at a semi final in Glenullin, probably around 1995 or 1996. Slaughtneil were playing Lavey. 

The Erin’s Own men kept tapping over points and we registered a goal to counteract it. Still Lavey raised white flag after white flag. We were keeping them from scoring goals, so were well in the game. Or were we? 

The game was not yet over, but I remember looking up at the scoreboard (Glenullin had an electric one before anyone else) and it was Slaughtneil 1-5 Lavey 0-21. Lavey had pulled away, they were masters at it.

This Saturday, Lavey will be meeting Kevin Lynch’s in the final. Despite being holders of the Fr Collins Cup, they are rank outsiders. As the pundits below demonstrate, the tide has changed in Derry Hurling. Slaughtneil may be the up and coming force at underage, but in the senior ranks, Kevin Lynch’s are very much the team to beat.

Of the last ten titles, the Dungiven men had landed six, Lavey have three with Banagher winning in 2005. As Tom Magill was the driving force behind Lavey in the 90s, the Kevin Lynch’s story has had Liam Hinphey at the helm. On Sunday their manager will be one of Hinphey’s troops from that era, former corner back Davy ‘Harry’ McCloskey. In hurling circles, you don’t need the McCloskey bit. Everyone knows who Davy Harry is.

This week I have contacted a few people who have watched (and played in) various championship games this year. They gave their verdict on the destination of the cup this weekend. 

From the predictions, it is clear cut, Kevin Lynch’s 7, Lavey 2. The cup will head over the Foyle Bridge, through Drumahoe, past the turn for Claudy, down through Foreglen, following past the gates for Owenbeg and into Dungiven for it’s final stop at ‘The Arcade’, the spiritual home of Kevin Lynch’s.

What would Tom Magill think of this? Will Ryan Cushnahan and Lavey have a plan to put a different slant on it? Will they make sure the cup heads down the Glenshane pass, through Maghera and back into Gulladuff?

Here is what the pundits had to say about this weekend’s county final.

Mickey Kirkpatrick (Swatragh) - In my opinion I can’t really look past Kevin Lynch’s, especially after last years defeat they will be gunning to make amends for that. Players like Mark Craig, Paddy Kelly and the Hinpheys will be very hard to stop. 

Lavey will need to look to the likes of Paddy Henry, the Dodds brothers and young O’Boyle [Cailean] to have a huge impact if they are to stop the Lynch’s. Although my heart says Lavey my head says Kevin Lynch’s. In what will be a tough and physical game I fancy the Lynch’s. Prediction: Kevin Lynch’s by 5.

Mary K Burke (Derry Post) - It's a tough one to call. Looking at the two semi finals Kevin Lynch's seemed the stronger of the two sides, but Lavey won't want to give up the Fr. Collin's trophy without a fight. Dungiven's run in the football may have distracted from the Lynch's preparations, whereas Lavey have had a clearer run in. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's by two.

Donal Leahy (Ballinascreen) – My thoughts on the County Final are that Kevin Lynch's will not slip up like last year and I expect them to win by 3-5 points.

The main player will be Paddy Henry of Lavey. If he can play to potential then Lavey have a chance, but I expect Kevin Lynch's will be very well prepared to deal with him as a threat. Predication: Kevin Lynch’s

Danny McGrellis (Banagher) - It should be a very tight one to call Michael. Dungiven had poor enough games against ‘Screen and Swatragh, not going well as a team.

Lavey were not that convincing against us but showed much better against Slaughtneil and had a bigger win than most people would have thought.

I’d have to say that Dungiven will be most people’s favourites to win it but I’d go with Lavey. This is simply because they work better as a team than Dungiven do, plus they probably had the better teams to play to get to the final Prediction: Lavey by 3 points 

Cahair O’Kane (Derry Post) - Lavey have shown since last year that they look like Kevin Lynch’s first proper challengers for a long time. But last year's final has been stinging in the Lynch’s for twelve months and if Lavey are able to match their performance from last September’s decider come Saturday afternoon you could get a cracking final.

When they saw off Slaughtneil a few weeks ago, Lavey had Cailean O’Boyle at full-forward, and there was a tendency to hit him early, particularly in the first half. O’Boyle won everything in the air, particularly in the first 20 minutes, and although he finished with just a single point, his presence was a major factor in the good start which carried Lavey home. 

However, Kevin Lynch’s full-back Aaron McCloskey has been sound in the air throughout this championship and with Liam Óg Hinphey often dropping off to add extra protection; you wonder will Lavey have to move away from that style for this game.

Kevin Lynch's haven't scored a goal in a hurling championship game since 2009's final replay win over Slaughtneil and unless they break that duct, they will find this a seriously tough examination again. But they do have some superb hurlers and despite the fact that Lavey have Sam Dodds, Mickey Drumm and Paul McVeigh all back for the final, it's hard to see the Lynch's losing two in a row. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's

Ruairi Convery (Swatragh) - Tough one to call. Kevin Lynch's have been the strongest club team in Derry for quite a while now and they will not like the fact that Lavey dethroned them this year. They looked very strong against us in the semi finals and will be out to retain the title and aim for that elusive Ulster Title. They are physically strong and I'd expect them to start very strong. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's by 4

Oisin O’Doherty (Slaughtneil) - From what I have seen of both teams in this season’s championship it looks like it will be a close encounter. Lavey have a good blend of youth and experience in their line-up with Dungiven looking to the older boys to pull them through. 

As current champions Lavey will be hard to beat and have shown that in the two previous championship performances. In last years final Lavey got a great start and got goals to win the game. I can't see the Lynch’s letting that happen again. I'm backing Dungiven’s experience to pull them through by 3 or 4 points. Prediction: Kevin Lynch’s

Conor Quinn (Swatragh) - Going have to go for Kevin Lynch’s. Think Lavey caught them a bit cold last year and they won't make that mistake again. That said, Lavey are a championship outfit (regardless of league form) and the footballers among them especially should be super fit so I don't see a runaway victory for Kevin Lynch’s. Prediction: Neck on the line...Kevin Lynch’s by 4!

Karl McKaigue (Slaughtneil) – Lavey will probably enter the game as favourites, especially as they have been out of the football championship for months, meaning a number of key players have returned to the squad.

Kevin Lynch’s have a few injury problems but having Liam Óg Hinphey back will prove invaluable. 

Top class forwards including Paddy Henry’s free taking should be enough to make it back to back titles. Prediction: Lavey by 3


Once again, thanks to those who gave their verdict. Who do you think will win? Leave your comment below.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Swatragh see off Moneymore

Intermediate Championship Semi Final – Swatragh 1-10 Moneymore 0-11


With ten minutes to go, this semi final was very much in the melting pot.  Moneymore led ‘The Swa’ by a point.  Their championship meeting earlier in the season was a different scenario, Swatragh won convincingly.  This time it was very much a dogfight, one that could have gone either way.  With the game in the balance, it was time for an impact man.  Against Steelstown Ruairi Convery was an inspired introduction from the bench.

On Saturday, Swatragh started with Convery at full forward.  After his fisted first half goal, the Moneymore defence got to grips with his aerial threat.  Swatragh needed a change of direction and in the twentieth minute they sent out Seamus Kearney to warmup.  This was their fresh impetuous.  A minute later they sent out Johnny McKeefry to join him. 

For the next five minutes Kearney watched with frustration as he was informed no substitution could be made until a natural break in play.  So after one of the longest ever warm-ups, they both entered the fray.  Very often the impact man will score with his first touch.  Not in this case. 

With Swatragh lacking composure, Kearney helped steady their attack.  With the game entering stoppage time he had a hand in Eugene O’Kane’s point to put Swatragh ahead.  After Stevie O’Neill had kicked an equaliser it looked like a replay.  Two minutes into injury time Swatragh had another attack, again Seamus Kearney was involved, he played in youngster Conor McAtamney for a point that eventually broke Moneymore’s considerable resolve.

Speaking after the game, manager Artie Kearney paid tribute to substitute Kearney’s input.  “Seamus Kearney has a proven record, he is a great footballer.  He is now in the fire brigade and is fit for his work, is fit for us and a good man to bring on”.

I asked if he thought his team panicked during the second half when the game was going away from them.  “We sort of keep digging the results out.  We have good players, sometimes they make mistakes that can cost you but they just kept plugging away.  We didn’t panic.  If you panic sure you’re in trouble then.”

Kearney played down the impact made by young guns Conor McAtamney and James Kearney in the closing stages.  “It’s a team effort and the men who came in brought a wee bit into it as well.  The changes we made probably mixed Moneymore up a bit and give us a bit of a lift”

On the other hand Moneymore were devastated.  They saw the finish line in sight, but were left dejected at the final whistle.  After the game their manager Paddy McGuckin and Artie Kearney had mutual respect for each other.  “You’d be disappointed if you were a Moneymore man, they really worked hard there.  They wanted that one [victory], they have been pushing for a while now”, was Kearney’s view of his opponents.

Despite jersey numbers, Moneymore started with Stevie O’Neill on the ‘forty’, with Mark O’Neill at midfield, Shane Barton went to full forward, with Paudie O’Neill out to wing forward.  During the game Barton and Paudie O’Neill switched roles at different times.

In the midfield sector Mark O’Neill and Christy Young probably shaded the exchanges, helped with Paudie and Stevie O’Neill on the breaks.  Later in the game Mickey Friel, James Kearney and Conor McAtamney made some telling catches for the Davitts. 

Moneymore’s defence did a reasonable job for the majority of the game, but will be disappointed that Ruairi Convery wasn’t challenged when punching the goal.  They crowded him out for most of the second half, but this game will have brought on his match fitness considerably ahead of the final. 

In the first half Moneymore drove with purpose from the back, but failed to open up Swatragh for a goal chance; Adrian Gavin possibly having a half chance but took a point just before half time

Eugene O’Kane’s free taking was a big help to Swatragh as well.  Conor McAtamney proved a great outlet for Swatragh with his direct running, he finished the game with 0-2, but with a bit more composure he could have scored more, but that will come with experience. 

Swatragh could have made it a different game at the start of the second half, but against the breeze they didn’t work the ball into scoring areas.  This spell could have proved costly if Moneymore had built on their two point lead with twelve minutes to go.

Conditions were perfect in Bellaghy for this semi-final, the game had a brief delay due to extra time in the U14 final and cup presentations.  When the ball was thrown in, Swatragh started with a bang.  a direct ball to Sean McNicholl who rounded Kevin Vallely and dissected the posts with a fine left footed effort.

Despite Swatragh competing well around the middle, in the next seven minutes, Moneymore hit three unanswered points to go 0-3 to 0-1 ahead. 

A probing ball by wing back Daniel Jackson, was picked up by Barry Doherty who was fouled and Paudie O’Neill tapped over the free.  In the fifth minute, Paudie O’Neill made a run, passed to Mark O’Neill for a point.  A minute later Stevie made it three in a row for the O’Neills with a well taken score.

Swatragh then replied with the first of Eugene O’Kane’s six points after James Kearney was fouled.  A minute later Swatragh had a goal chance.  After a surging run, Conor McAtamney blasted goalwards, but his shot was excellently saved by Stephen Barker at the expense of a 45, but Sean McNicholl was off target with his kick.

In the eleventh minute Cathal McQuillan was narrowly wide after good approach play.  Moneymore were driving out from their defence, with their support game serving them well, but they failed to retain possession in their attack with the final ball.

Soon the game was level, Sean McNicholl was fouled, the free was moved forward for dissent and Eugene O’Kane made it 0-3 each.    Swatragh had the breeze, but were not moving the ball forward and any ball directed to Ruairi Convery was played out to the corner and wasn’t effective enough.

In the 17th minute, a Moneymore attack broke down, play was directed to Eugene O’Kane who held off his marker Gareth O’Neill and kicked a great score to edge Swatragh ahead.  The lead lasted a mere three minutes, Barry Doherty was fouled in the corner, Stevie O’Neill dropped the ball across to the centre, Christy Young fielded well after a magnificent leap, was fouled and Paudie O’Neill had the easiest of kicks to make it 0-4 each.

When Swatragh again took a lead it was a fine Ruairi Convery effort form the wing, after Conor McAtamney fielded well from Stephen Barker’s kick-out.  The point for point trend continued, but the source of Moneymore’s equaliser was an unlikely one, corner back Gareth O’Neill with the left foot into the breeze.  This should have drove Moneymore on, points from corner backs are meant to be inspirational.

The next play saw the game’s only goal.  Once again Conor McAtamney proving the outlet for the defence, Diarmuid Dillon up supporting him, recycled the ball inside, the kick forward was a measured one towards the square and Ruairi Convery fisted to the Moneymore net.  Swatragh had another half chance for goal, but Stephen Barker was quickly out in front of Sean McNicholl and danger was averted.

Both teams missed chances to get on the scoreboard, with Adrian Gavin hitting the last score of the half.  Conor McAtamney then had chance, but took the wrong option when a fisted point would have been valuable.

In the first six minutes of the second half Swatragh had four attacks, one was a missed free, the second was a high ball punched clear by ‘keeper Barker, a third saw Swatragh blew up for too long and the fourth was a wayward shot when a better placed man was on.  Added with the missed one before half time Swatragh could have been four clear at this stage.

However, a long and well struck Mark O’Neill point  for Moneymore in the sixth minute cut Swatragh’s lead to the bare minimum, 1-5 to 0-7.  Three minutes later the sides were level, Stevie O’Neill played the ball over the top to Adrian Gavin, but Swatragh goalie Mick O’Kane swept up well behind his defence, being fouled in the process.  His kick was won by Stevie O’Neill who used his pace to draw a foul and Paudie O’Neill brought the sides level.

Moneymore’s positive spell continued.  Swatragh defender Diarmuid Dillon adjudged to have taken too many steps in the 11th minute and Paudie O’Neill was on target again from a free. For the next five minutes, there was no score, two balls into the Swatragh defence were broken down and swept up by an alert Moneymore defence. 

When Moneymore substitute Richard Scullion was fouled, it was the left foot of Stevie O’Neill this time who put Moneymore two in front, with twelve to go.   At this stage the next score was going to be a crucial one.  An overlapping run by Sean McMaster, now at wing back, setup Conor McAtamney for his first point of the day and Swatragh were back in it, their first score in 24 minutes.

With four minutes to play, a speculative shot from Ruairi Convery was well tipped onto the post by Stephen Barker, on the rebound there was a Swatragh free and Eugene O’Kane brought the sides kevel, 1-7 to 0-10.  Stevie O’Neill missed a chance from a free to put Moneymore ahead again.

With normal time up, James Kearney won possession for Swatragh. He passed to substitute Seamus Kearney who weighed up the options before recycling possession to Eugene O’Kane who kicked a brilliant point from the wing, and Swatragh had their noses in front.

With three minutes of stoppage time to play, there was time for a twist yet.  Mark O’Neill worked a free short to Johnny Taylor, then brought Daniel Jackson into the play who was fouled and Stevie O’Neill kicked the free between the posts and looked to have forced a replay.

Swatragh had other ideas though, with Mickey Friel breaking the ball at midfield, Conor McAtamney played a ball to Seamus Kearney, took the return and kicked Swatragh ahead again, 1-9 to 0-11.  Possession at this stage was crucial from the kick-out, Barker directed his kick away from Mickey Friel, but Conor McAtamney who made a great catch on the wing was fouled.  Eugene O’Kane’s sixth point of the game put them two up and virtually sealed the game.

The next kick-out was won by Swatragh’s James Kearney and that signalled the end of the game.  It left Swatragh into a final meeting with Craigbane and Moneymore dejected, with thoughts of what might have been.

After the game I informed Artie Kearney that Craigbane would be their final opponents, I asked him for his thoughts.  “We’re just going to go and play Craigbane, we’re not going to start thinking about what Craigbane is going to do, we’ll just think about our own game”, replied a satisfied Swatragh boss.

Swatragh: Mick O’Kane, Hugh Martin Turner, Sean McMaster, Declan McGuckin, Philip Mooney, Ryan Dillon, Diarmuid Dillon, Michael Friel, James Kearney, Conor McAtamney (0-2), Cathal McQuillan, Robbie McWilliams, Sean McNicholl (0-1), Ruairi Convery (1-1), Eugene O’Kane (0-6, four frees).
Subs: Seamus Bradley for Philip Mooney (48mins), Seamus Kearney for Cathal McQuillan (56mins), Johnny McKeefry for Sean McNicholl (56mins).

Moneymore: Stephen Barker, Gareth O’Neill (0-1), Ryan Barker, Kevin Vallely, Johnny Taylor, Paul Scullion, Daniel Jackson, Mark O’Neill (0-2), Christy Young, Barry Doherty, Stephen O’Neill (0-3, two frees), Paudie O’Neill (0-4, three frees), Adrian Gavin (0-1), Shane Barton, Gerard Diamond.   
Subs: Richard Scullion for Gerard Diamond (37mins), Stephen McGurk for Adrian Gavin (41mins).

Referee: Mervyn McAleese (Drum)

Slaughtneil Are U14 Champions

Derry U14 A Final Replay – Slaughtneil 5-10 Glen 4-12 (AET)


This was the way football is supposed to be.  End to end, high scoring, plenty of drama and players free to express themselves.  Welcome to the world of U14 football.  This final was an epic encounter; you could see what it meant to the Slaughtneil players at the final whistle, the sheer joy.  Glen were totally devastated, the fact that they had just participated in a classic had no significance with them.

Glen were eleven points down and came back into the game.  With four minutes left they scored two goals to force extra time.  Their body language as they virtually ran into the pre extra time huddle could have pre-empted that they would pull away in extra time. 

This was not the case.  Slaughtneil didn’t feel sorry for themselves; they showed real character, rolled their sleeves up again and in two pulsating periods of extra time edged Glen out to take the title.

In underage, getting off to a positive start is a must.  Slaughtneil certainly did that.  With the breeze at their backs, they took the game to Glen and set the tone for the day.  Brian Cassidy opened the scoring with an early point.  This was followed by a goal frenzy.  Glen’s Conor Glass drove a ball forward, Brian Cassidy intercepted possession, launched an attack for Shane McGuigan to score a third minute goal.

One minute later the Glen net was bulging again.  Sean Cassidy’s pass found Liam Cassidy who crashed home Slaughtneil’s second goal.  It was a dream start for the Emmets.  Brian Cassidy cut out another Glen attack, the play changed ends quickly and Keelan Feeney was bearing down on goal but ‘keeper Callum Young made a terrific save.  The first of many, like his Slaughtneil counterpart, the Glen ‘keeper had a great game, despite the scoreline.

After Shane McGuigan tagged on a point, Slaughtneil hit their third goal of the game.  Keelan Feeney won possession from the kick-out, his lightening pace taking him through on goal and this time made no mistake.  So with just seven minutes gone, Slaughtneil were 3-2 to 0-0 ahead.  Despite James McCloskey getting their first score two minutes later, Glen were in trouble, Slaughtneil were playing like a team possessed.

In the next period, Glen began to get a foothold in the game, with Declan McCusker and the midfield duo of Doole and Glass stemming the Slaughtneil tidal wave.  However, against the wind Glen had to play a running game but were taking too much out of the ball. 

Industrious midfielder Ciaran McGuigan capped off a fine run to score for Slaughtneil and Mark Doole responded with a free for Glen, the only two scores during a fourteen minute lull in the scoring.  Trailing by ten points Glen had a spell of dominance of their own to get themselves back into the game.  Conor Glass setting up Tiernan Flannigan for a point, before Declan McCusker and Paudie Fullerton put Mark Doole through for another as the half entered stoppage time. 

A quickly taken free after a foul on Declan McCusker saw James McCloskey in on goal forced a terrific save by Slaughtneil’s James McRory. From the rebound Tiernan Flannigan went on to score the first of his three goals. The Glen full forward finished with a tally of 3-2 and was unfortunate to end up on the losing side.  Conal Darragh tagged on another point and Glen were back in the game 3-3 to 1-5.

The half was not yet over.  The next score was the game’s crucial moment and gave Slaughtneil a massive boost of confidence.  A well measured pass from Prionsias Burke found Brian Cassidy in space.  The Slaughtneil centre back hit an unstoppable shot to the top corner of the Glen net.  It would have been better than anything they would have been raving about on Sky Soccer Saturday.

At half time, it gave everyone in the considerable attendance a chance to catch their breath.  Glen were eight points in arrears, but this game was far from over.  Little did we know how this game was going to pan out.  Glen went route one early in the second half, but Mark Glass made a great interception and went on to have a terrific game.  A brilliant tackle from Mark Doole back in defence started a Glen move that saw Conor Glass setup James McCloskey for a point.

Glen had a spell of missed chances and were guilty of taking the wrong option.  At the other end Callum Young prevented another Slaughtneil goal.  Slaughtneil were struggling to kick into the breeze, it was hanging as they attacked the road end at Pairc Sean de Brun. 

With six minutes gone in the half, Glen got a much needed goal.  A throw up on the 13 metre line, saw Glen win possession and full forward Tiernan Flannigan rattled to the net.  They trailed by just three points and went on to dominate the game but were guilty of poor shooting.  It’s a learning curve, but so high was the standard from both teams, we maybe tend to expect too much.  We should remember these were only young lads developing.

In the twelfth minute Slaughtneil hit their fifth goal, Shane McGuigan’s effort hitting the post and Keelan Feeney making no mistake from the rebound putting his team 5-3 to 2-6.  This seemed to inspire Glen even more and they were camped in the Slaughtneil half with ‘keeper James McRory commanding in the air. 

Slaughtneil tried to make a counter attack but Glen corner back James McGuigan cut out brilliantly, if he had missed the ball Slaughtneil could have added another goal.
After a brilliant catch just outside the penalty area, Conor Glass cut the lead to five, but Shane McGuigan restored a six point advantage with a vital Slaughtneil point.  Such was the pace of the game, a two goal lead was never a commanding one. 

With two minutes remaining Glen were awarded a penalty for a foul on Mark Doole.  Up stepped Conal Darragh and he slotted expertly to the corner of the net, reducing the gap to three points.  Glen were not finished yet. 

In the next attack Fergal Bradley’s kick was well caught by ‘keeper Callum Young, Glen built from the back, with Tiernan Flannigan played in on goal, his ‘rasper’ hit the bar and bounced into the net.  The sides were level 4-7 to 5-4 and we were heading for extra time.

During the break, Glen were mentally buzzing after their comeback, but whatever was said in the Slaughtneil huddle certainly lifted their spirits.

So now for extra time.  After points from Mark Doole and Brian Cassidy, Slaughtneil had another goal chance, but Young made another great save from Keelan Feeney’s shot.  The 45 was worked short to the busy Sean Cassidy who scored a point, with a bit of help from the post.  Tiernan Flannigan was the star of the show in extra time and was then on target with a point. 

Shane McGuigan was having a terrific game for Slaughtneil and was on target from a free.  While normal time saw big margins come and go, extra time was much closer and this game was obviously going to the wire.  A great run and point from Keelan Feeney put Slaughtneil 5-8 to 4-10 by half time.

So it was down to the final ten minutes to decide the destination of the U14 championship.  A Conor Glass free brought the sides level after two minutes and a replay wasn’t put of the question.  A brilliant tackle from Mark Glass started a move, Sean Cassidy was fouled and a free from Brian Cassidy edged the Emmets ahead, with Liam Cassidy opening up a significant two point lead

A James McCloskey point made it a one point game once again and nobody was leaving Pairc Sean De Brun early.  Glen again poured forward in search of an equaliser.  Slaughtneil ‘keeper James McRory made terrific and crucial save from Conor Glass, and in another move, full back Mark Glass made a terrific catch which signalled the end of the game and the Emmets held on for a terrific win. 

Both clubs have met in the U14 and U16 finals, with Glen also in the minor decider.  It’s a great credit to the tremendous efforts put into youth development in these clubs.

Slaughtneil: James McRory, Rory McCartney, Mark Glass, Joseph McEldowney, Conor McAllister (capt), Brian Cassidy (1-3, three frees), Kieran Bradley, Ciaran McGuigan (0-1), Prionsias Burke, Keelan Feeney (2-1), Liam Cassidy (1-1), Fergal Bradley, Sean Cassidy (0-1), Shane McGuigan (1-3, one free), Jerome McGuigan.

Glen: Callum Young, Oran McGill, Jack Doherty (capt), James McGuigan, Stephen Glass, Declan McCusker, Tommy Mullan, Conor Glass (0-4, two frees), Mark Doole (0-3, one free), Conal Darragh (1-1, 1-0 penalty), Matthew Ferguson, Paudie Fullerton, James McCloskey (0-2), Tiernan Flannigan (3-2), Eoghan Young. 
Sub: Shea McMath for Paudie Fullerton (38 mins).

Referee: Gregory McWilliams (Ballinascreen)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Contrasting weather at Celtic Park

Sunday at Celtic Park was certainly a day for tweeting from the press box.  The luxury of WiFi and shelter was great.  Just a pity it takes an age to get home from it though!
For the Kilrea and Loup players, conditions were dreadful.  Young Loup corner forward Anthony O’Neill deserves a lot of credit for the way he took his goal.  He rounded a corner back and ‘keeper before slotting to the net.  This was at a stage when the rain was heaviest.
Mary K Burke (Derry Post) captured the conditions from the game in this photo of James Donaghy breaking clear of Aidan McAlynn’s challenge.

The sun came out for the second game between Dungiven and Ballinderry.  However, the injury to Ballinderry’s Aaron Devlin put the importance of football into perspective.  He was taken away in an ambulance.  Thankfully he has improved and hopefully he makes a full recovery and has a great career ahead of him.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

In The Spotlight - Conleith Gilligan (Ballinderry)

He may be known as ‘Deets’, some Ballinderry folk will call him ‘Dino’ but when Ballinderry won the 1998 All-Ireland Sevens title at Kilmacud Crokes, Conleith Gilligan was quite simply the star of the show as the ‘fly’ goalkeeper.  He had played MacRory and County football as a keeper but sevens is different.  Your goalkeeper is very much your ace card, he is the play maker.

A few years later after Ballinderry had won the Derry, Ulster and All-Ireland titles Conleith Gilligan was most likely in Forbes [not Forbes club or Forbes Racing] ordering a new sideboard, such was the number of man of the match accolades he was picking up.  With Mickey Conlan now in the established number one, Gilligan was the conductor at number 11.

However, in the last few seasons the Ballinderry attack has taken up a different formation.   Raymond ‘Crook’ Wilkinson and Enda Muldoon have been playing in this role, with Gilligan pushed up as a finisher, alongside Collie Devlin and more recently new underage sensation Ryan Bell in attack. 

So basically Gilligan has played many different roles in the game.  From the early days of goalkeeper practice on St Pat’s back pitch, to a penalty scoring goalkeeper with Derry minors.  From mastering the extra man role at Kilmacud to opening up Nemo Rangers on that famous St Paddy’s day trip to Thurles in 2002.

During the week he will have been in Eugene Kelly’s thoughts as he prepares his Dungiven side.  As he steps off the bus in Celtic , Gilligan will be have his sights firmly set on anther county final appearance.  He is the last of our featured players in this week’s semi-final build-up.Park

Name: Conleith Gilligan

Nickname: Too many to name

Club: Ballinderry Shamrocks

Age: 31

Height  5.10


Occupation: Sales manager

Boots/Gloves Worn: Nike Tiempo/Breath gloves

Favourite Film: 300

Favourite Song:  Anything by Susan Boyle

Favourite Food: Chinese

Favourite Drink: Tea

Favourite pitch: Shamrock Park

Best thing about football: Playing

Worst thing about football: Losing

Pre Match Meal: Pasta

Pre Game Superstition: None

Toughest opponent: Raymond (Wrinkle) Wilson

Best player played with: Too many to single one out.

Sporting Highlight: AIl Ireland Club title 2002.

Biggest Disappointment: Losing any final

Childhood idol: Trevor Giles

Biggest influence in your career: Brian McIvor

Advice for young players: Work hard and listen harder

Best trainer in the club: Kevin Moss

Worst trainer in the club: Darren Conway

Other Sports played: None

Friday, 23 September 2011

Derry SFC Semi Finals

I didn’t attend last year’s county final, after our defeat at the hands of Ballinderry I had very little interest in the championship.  Football affects you that way.  I will probably find it hit hard watching Kilrea this Sunday wondering how the Emmet’s would fare against the Loup.
On county final day last year, I was visiting relatives for Sunday dinner (can’t beat getting one made for you) and my phone was hot with updates from Celtic Park.  Coleraine had beaten us fairly and squarely after a replay, but I still fancied Ballinderry to beat them.  I figured that in the wide open spaces of Celtic Park, The Shamrocks would ‘out-football’ Coleraine.  What did I know?
The one thing I hadn’t factored into my prediction was that Declan Mullan would be unmarkable.  He had not really set the championship alight. However, it was now the biggest occasion of the season and this was Deccy’s stage after all.  I should’ve known better.  He relishes the big days.
One snippet I will always remember, was some video footage (below) from a minor league game, when assisted by Cailean O’Boyle they completed their version of ‘The Real Hustle’ on the Antrim defence.  This was just one of his many talents, a bubbly character, can comfortably use both feet with tremendous speed and athleticism.

On his return from the Kilmacud Sevens, he gave us his take on this weekend’s Derry SFC semi-finals.
Sunday 25th September (Celtic Park @ )
Loup v Kilrea - This will be a tough one to call I have to say.  We haven’t played Kilrea this year but they are going well with some great results.
The Loup on the other hand played the defensive game.  They have carried it out successfully and will probably stick to it against Kilrea. It’s very difficult to play against.  Forwards get smothered, there is little space to operate in and scoring is limited.
If the match was played in Magherafelt on a wet, windy day, Loup would win.  On the other hand, in Celtic Park if Kilrea can match the Loup’s intensity and workrate they should come out on top. 
They will have to reduce the influence of the Kielts and keep an eye on Paddy McNeill who is lively up front for them.  Verdict: Kilrea by 3
Sunday 25th September (Celtic Park @ )
Ballinderry V Dungiven – This should also be a close game.  It has the makings of a good game of open and fast flowing football. Dungiven are a good side with quality players all over the pitch but so have Ballinderry.  Dungiven have also blended plenty of youth into their side.
It’s always hard to look past Ballinderry.  Every year they are in the shake-up.  The advantage is the players and tradition they have. I feel it will be a very close encounter but I think Ballinderry’s greater firepower will be too much for Dungiven.  Also, ‘Big Enda’ will be man of the match, by a country mile. 
Verdict Ballinderry by 2

I'm sure Declan would rather be playing this Sunday, but thanks to him for giving his comments.

Both games available via Twitter @malmcmullan

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Derry Junior Final - Drum v Doire Trasna

1993 was not just the year Derry won the All-Ireland, it was the year that Ballinderry Thirds beat Slaughtneil Thirds to win the Junior championship.  It took a replay and extra time to separate the teams, yours truly was in goals for Slaughtneil.  I gave away a penalty in the replay, by hauling Darren ‘Chada’ Crozier to the ground.  The penalty was dispatched to the net and Ballinderry went on to win.
After Glen’s back to back Junior wins, the Thirds teams were been banished from the championship.  They never got the chance to push for the three in a row! At least when Liverpool didn't qualify for the champions league, they were allowed to enter it the following year to defend their title. 
This Saturday it will be the turn of Doire Trasna and Drum who do battle at Celtic Park.  Doire Trasna avenged last year’s championship final defeat when they ousted Ardmore from this year’s championship.  They are coming into their second straight final, are favourites, overwhelmingly so. 
This is Drum’s fourth final in six years, but they have lost the last two, and lost them heavily.  Against Lissan in 2007, they found a side that had just grown too strong in the 12 months since their previous final meeting, which Drum won by a point to claim their sixth junior title.  Darren Donnelly’s goal before half-time set Lissan on their way and they won at a canter.
Two years ago, Drum suffered a serious disappointment at the hands of Séan Dolan’s.  Drum’s team has a different look to it now.  Into the side this year have come Liam Millar, Alex Moore, Conor O’Reilly, all three of them still eligible for minor football.  Niall Ferris is only out of minor and his signing from Dungiven in pre-season has proved a massive fillip.
Drum will miss the Australia bound Niall Burke and Conor O’Kane who will be in America.  I am sure they will be keeping an eye on the game via Twitter.  Those are two huge losses to a paper-thin squad, so Drum will have to look at a reshuffle. 
Trasna’s line-up seems to change game on game but the bulk of the side remains unchanged.  Their one big injury worry is midfielder Paul Quigley but he should be fit to start.  The domination of Quigley and Caolan Doyle at midfield is something which Drum will have to try to arrest. 
Doire Trasna have won all four meetings of the two sides this season, stretching back to one of the very first games of the new campaign, a Neil Carlin Cup encounter at Lisnagelvin.  That was considered small fry compared to a highly anticipated league opener between the two, but Trasna blew away Drum, hitting 5-10 in a sensational performance to win by 12 points away from home.
When the sides met again, Drum had new management in place and they were every bit as good as Trasna that day, limiting the influence of Quigley and Doyle at midfield.    Trasna fought back in the final ten minutes to win by two points.
That was arguably Drum’s best performance of the season, but there is no doubting what their worst one was.  Seven weeks after that tight league game, Drum travelled to Celtic Park for a championship group stage clash.  In the grand scheme of things, it meant little beyond the psychological.  But it was one of Drum’s worst performances in years and Doire Trasna won by eleven (0-15 to 0-04) when they could have won by 30.  It really was that one sided.
It is hard to know whether Drum have improved since that or not.  Only really Saturday will tell the tale.  Certainly their semi-final victory over Glack gave little indication, because the challenge put up by Aaron O’Connor’s side was non-existent.
Drum will play Ryan O’Reilly in beside Ryan O’Hara in the hope of going long and early, and trying to cause a bit of panic in the Trasna defence.  They will need to score at least one goal to win this game.  If they get it, they can win, but the favourites tag lies in Doire Trasna’s bed.  Having made mistakes last year, they are odds on to have learnt from them and to take the Joe Brolly Cup home.
Mal’s Verdict: Doire Trasna
Likely line ups
Drum                                                     Doire Trasna
Cahair O’Kane                      1          Damien O’Carroll
James McCartney                 2          Damien Doherty
Damian Brolly                        3          Kevin McKenna
Liam Millar                             4          Daryl McDermott
Darren McLaughlin               5          Niall Callan
Marc McLaughlin                   6          Eoghan Carlin
Alex Moore                            7          Conor Houston
Patrick McCloskey                8          Paul Quigley
Kevin O’Reilly                        9          Caolan Doyle
Rory O’Reilly                          10        Sean McNaught
Donal Brolly                           11        Enda Lindsay
Niall Ferris                             12        Michéal McNaught
Conor O’Reilly                       13        Ciaran McKenna
Ryan O’Hara                          14        Darren Harkin
Ryan O’Reilly                           15        Barry McKenna
Thanks to Cahair O’Kane for letting me use his report for this blog, but on editing and readling his preview I made the verdict that Doire Trasna would win the Junior Championship.

In The Spotlight - Paul Murphy (Dungiven)

It seems like Paul Murphy has been playing for Dungiven forever.  He was just a fresh faced 18 year old when Dungiven last won the John McLaughlin Cup, back in 1997.  They beat Castledawson in the final that year, Paul was listed at number 12. 
They went on to win the Ulster title, beating Errigal Ciaran 0-14 to 1-9 in the final at Clones, with Paul scoring a point from the half forward line.  Here was Paul’s pen-pic from the 1997 county final.
The powerfully built minor has had a great underage career but came of age in the games against Lavey.  He was magnificent in the replay.  He is a wonderful fielder and a strong runner with the ball.  He is a most exciting player to watch.  His father Andy managed Dungiven in the 1984 win over Castledawson.
Since that day Paul Murphy has been an ever present for Dungiven.  He has also been a regular fixture in the Derry team.  I always remember his tremendous first half display in Croke Park in 2007 against Dublin.
This Sunday, he will be back at Celtic Park, hoping to reverse the 2008 semi final defeat to the Shamrocks and take a step closer to the county title.  Here is Paul Murphy’s penpic, the 2011 version.
Name: Paul Murphy
Nickname: None
Club: St Canice’s Dungiven
Age: 33
Height: 5,11
Weight: 13st 10
Occupation: Metal fixer
Boots/Gloves Worn: Puma Boots, Breathe gloves
Favourite Film:  Heat with Al Pacino and Robert Di Niro.
Favourite Song:  Knocked Up - Kings of Leon
Favourite Food: Fillet steak and chips with all the trimmings
Favourite Drink: Cool pint of Carlsberg.
Favourite pitch: Home club pitch in Dungiven.
Best thing about playing football: A knees up with the lads back at the club after a good win.
Worst thing about football: Post-mortems.
Pre Match Meal: Bar of chocolate.
Pre Game Superstition: None now, used to wear socks inside out for some strange reason.
Toughest opponent: There are too many to mention.    
Best player played with: Fergal Doherty among several.
Sporting Highlight: Winning the Ulster Club title in 1997.
Biggest Disappointment: All Ireland club semi-final 1998 defeat by Corofin and All Ireland Quarter Final 2007 defeat by Dublin.
Childhood idol: Henry Downey.
Biggest influence in your career: My Father, Andy.
Advice for young players: Stay off the liquor.
Best trainer in the club: Stephen O’Kane, AKA, Skinny.
Worst trainer in the club: Stephen O’Kane, AKA, Skinny.
Other Sports played: I played hurling up until I was 19.
NOTE…The curtain raiser for the 1997 County Final at Celtic Park was the U16 final between Ballinderry and Dungiven.  Below are the teams as listed in the programme that day.
BALLINDERRY: Stephen Scullion, Martin Scullion, Martin Cassidy, Brendan Conway, Colum Mullan, Kevin McGuckin, Pat Crozier, Jarlath Bell, James Conway, Mark McGeehan, Cathal Cassidy, Killian Conlan, Philip Muldoon, Ronan Devlin, Thomas Maynes.  Among the subs were Michael Bell and another Kevin McGuckin, probably Kevin Moss.
DUNGIVEN: Rory McBride, Colm Kelly, Paul Sweeney, Raymond Craig, Eoin Hasson, Cahir Mullan, Fergal Hargan, Aaron McCloskey, Eunan O’Kane, Martin Hasson, Gavin McLaughlin, Stephen McGuigan, Cathal Duffy, Kevin McCloskey, Eunan Murphy.