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.

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