St Mary's Banagher 4-18 St Michael's Lissan 2-08
Banagher had thirteen different scorers as they blasted their way to the H & A Mechanical Derry ACFL Division 2 title with a home victory over St Michael's Lissan on Wednesday evening.
After seeing off nearest rivals Foreglen last week, the St Mary's men went into tonight's game knowing a win would clinch the title and confirm a play-off spot for a possible immediate return to life in the top flight.
After a lengthy warm-up, the hosts got off to a blistering start, racking up a three-point lead with points from Conor Feeney, Mícheál Anderson and a Mark Lynch effort that was tipped over by the impressive Stephen Conway in the Lissan goal.
Banagher then underlined their early superiority with their first goal of the game, Tiarnan Moore taking advantage of a slack Lissan kick-out, taking the ball in and firing it low to the Lissan net.
Further points followed from Niall McCullagh and Peter Hagan before the visitors finally got off the mark, full forward Patrick Kelly raising their first white flag after seeing Ruairí McCloskey block his initial goalbound effort.
There was no let up though as the hosts appeared to have runners from every angle, Gavin O'Neill breaking the line on the end of a neat hand pass from Tiarnan Moore to finish low over the crossbar.
Lissan were determined not to play the sacrificial lamb to Banagher's title-winning altar however, and a Patrick McElroy free signalled the start of a good spell for the visitors, with a James McKee effort and a further McElroy score reducing the gap to five points.
Brian Óg McGilligan then had a stirring few minutes for the champions elect, first pointing calmly from 30 yards, fielding the kick out to start the move that ended with captain Paul Cartin fisting the ball over the bar and finally slotting his second of the evening to stretch the gap out to eight.
A Lissan lifeline then arrived as James Canavan fielded a speculative ball in from Ciaran Quigley and finishing with shades of his famous namesake, low into the bottom corner past Killian McDermott.
Conor Feeney immediately responded for the home side before the visitors had a healthy spell of possession for a number of minutes, but unfortunately for them only one score came of it, an excellent individual effort from Niall Murray splitting the posts.
With the clock ticking towards half time, Banagher netted their second goal, Mark Lynch showing great vision to pick out Conor Feeney, who sidestepped his man and buried the ball to the visitors' net to leave the home side eight to the good at the break.
Lissan opened the second period brightly, a Patrick McElroy free splitting the posts after he was dragged down on the way through the home defence. The home side responded quickly and in ruthless fashion, Steafan McCloskey cutting in neatly from the left flank to point before Niall McCullagh effectively ended the contest, getting a fist to a half-blocked shot to divert it past Conway in the Lissan goal.
There was no let-up from the hosts, with Peter Hagan slotting a free almost immediately after the goal before adding a second from an acute angle on the left before Martin McCracken hit an excellent score for the visitors, taking a look from 40 yards and sending the ball between the posts with the outside of his right foot.
Lissan then followed up with their second goal, Patrick McElroy turning in a high ball from St Mary's Magherafelt star Tiernach Donaghy to leave the lead at nine points as both sides began to empty the benches.
The quality and depth of the Banagher squad was evident as the substitutes quickly set about making those holding the starting roles sweat ahead of championship, Tiarnan McCloskey firing to the net as the ball broke on the ground before Eunan Murphy notched his first score from the bench and the impressive Hagan added a beautiful finish wide on the left flank.
Tiernach Donaghy ended a strong run through the home defence with an accurate finish before Murphy hit his second score and Shane Farren iced the champions' cake with a direct finish from the right flank as the referee sounded the final whistle to confirm the hosts' title victory.
After the celebrations, Banagher will turn their attention to securing their status as a Division 1 team via a play-off and a first-round championship fixture against rivals Foreglen, while Lissan look forward to a date with Steelstown in the IFC.
St Mary's Banagher: Killian McDermott, Mícheál Anderson (0-01), Ruairí McCloskey, Oisín McCloskey, Paul Cartin (c) (0-01), Sean McCullagh, John Lynch, Brian Óg McGilligan (0-02), Mark Lynch (0-01), Gavin O'Neill (0-01), Steafan McCloskey (0-01), Peter Hagan(0-01f, 0-03), Tiarnan Moore (0-01), Niall McCullagh (1-01), Conor Feeney (1-03).
Other scorers: Tiarnan McCloskey (1-00), Eunan Murphy (0-02), Shane Farren (0-01).
St Michael's Lissan: Stephen Conway, Martin McCracken (0-01), Eamon McElduff, Aaron McWilliams, Peter Canavan, Peter McGlone (c), Niall Murray (0-01), Patrick McElroy (0-02f, 1-01), Tiernach Donaghy (0-01), Ciaran Quigley, James McKee (0-01), Eoin Murray, James Canavan (1-00), Patrick Kelly (0-01), Shea McKernan.
Referee: Terence McElhinney (St Mary's Faughanvale)