St Mary's Banagher 1-12 St Trea's Ballymaguigan 1-08
1952. An incredible 66-year wait for a county title came to an end on Saturday evening as St Mary's Banagher clinched the McFeely Group Derry IFC title with victory over a dogged St Trea's Ballymaguigan in Owenbeg.
The Banagher players and support lingered on the pitch after the final whistle, savouring every moment as they added the championship title to the league crown they annexed back in July.
Fittingly, club stalwart Mark Lynch played a starring role in a second half that eventually saw off the resistance of Ballymaguigan, who kept plugging away til the bitter end, finally being undone by a Ciaran Lynch goal in the dying minutes of the game to put it beyond them.
It was the Loughshore side, however, who started the brightest, a Tomás Brady raid ending in the opening point of the game as the underdogs took the lead after four minutes of shadow boxing, before Tiarnan Moore responded for Feeny side to restore parity.
A foul on Sean Brady then presented Daniel Bradley with the opportunity to nudge his side back into the lead, which he duly took from the edge of the D, before Peter Hagan opened his account up the other end from a similar free.
Ballymaguigan's Bradley had made a flying start to the contest and this continued as he plucked the ball from the air and delivered a kick pass into the run of Darren Conway. Conway was fouled by Ruairí McCloskey and Bradley converted the free, before adding another fine effort from 50 yards to see his side double their lead.
A low pointed effort from Gavin O'Neill cut the deficit, before it was wiped out by Hagan, tapping over another neat free after a foul on Conor Feeney. It was a tactic that Banagher worked well all afternoon, kicking frees short to Feeney, whose natural trickery inevitably drew the foul from the Ballymaguigan defence.
Barry McGlone ensured the lead did not last long, taking a clever hand pass from Darren Conway and slotting the ball between the posts to regain the lead for St Trea's. Banagher responded with a Hagan free before they were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to seize the initiative.
After breaking free to crash an effort off the Ballymaguigan crossbar, Conor Feeney collected the rebound, only to be dragged down by a combination of Naomh Trea defenders in the area.
Aaron Cassidy, yet to concede a goal in this competition, made a stunning save from Shane Farren's effort, diving low to his left to palm the ball out for a 45, which Tiarnan Moore could only drop into the welcoming arms of Darren Conway.
In added time at the end of the half, a foul on Banagher captain Paul Cartin allowed Hagan to notch his fourth free of the game to nudge the St Mary's men in front at the half.
Ballymaguigan almost started the second half with a bang as Barry McGlone found himself put through on goal by Sean Brady, but the corner forward's effort skewed to the left and wide of the posts, before Mark Lynch worked yet another short free to Banagher's advantage up the other end, slipping the ball to Peter Hagan who fired over his first from play.
Tomás Kealey then became the latest St Trea's player to spurn a goal chance, flashing his shot across the face of Darrell McDermott's goal, before another foul on the busy Sean Brady allowed McGlone to slot a free to reduce the gap to one.
Banagher talisman Mark Lynch then hit the score of the game, bursting on to a loose ball in front of the stand and kicking on the run from the right flank between the Ballymaguigan uprights to extend the lead to two, before a coming together between Tomás Brady and Ruairí McCloskey sparked a period of pushing and shoving below the stand.
On the resumption of play, Banagher settled faster, working the ball to Peter Hagan, only to see him dragged back by Liam Cassidy, who recieved a black card for his indiscretion. Lynch popped over the free before adding another seconds later, a left-footed finish on the run to send over the insurance point for his side.
As the St Mary's crowd began to turn their heads, and in some cases their feet, towards the podium, Barry McGlone ensured their migration was momentarily halted, squeezing an effort past Darrell McDermott into the bottom right corner of the net to reduce the gap to the minimum.
Calm heads were needed for Banagher, and they had one in Peter Hagan, who meandered his way through the 'Quigan defence to tap over a point and settle his team once again. Patsy Bateson then became the latest player on the Conor Feeney foul-sheet, hauling him back to concede a close-range free which Lynch converted to see the three-point deficit reinstated.
A further Barry McGlone free after a foul on Andrew McCartney saw the gap reduced to two, before substitute Ciaran Lynch dealt the killer blow, latching onto a deft Mark Lynch hand pass before rolling the ball past Cassidy, agonisingly conceding his first goal of the championship within seconds of its conclusion.
A late Darren Conway free proved scant consolation for the St Trea's men, who sank to their knees at the end having failed to end their own nine-year wait for a championship, while it was the St Mary's side who leapt in delight at the satiation of their hunger.
An emotional Paul Cartin lifted the trophy for Banagher, who will progress to the Ulster series and represent Derry, but thoughts of an Ulster run will be on ice for the night as the celebrations take hold in Feeny.
St Mary's Banagher: Darrell McDermott, Shane Murphy (Mícheál Anderson), Ruairí McCloskey, Oisín McCloskey, Paul Cartin (c), Sean McCullagh, Darragh McCloskey, Brian Óg McGilligan, Mark Lynch (0-02, 0-02f), Gavin O'Neill (0-01), Peter Hagan (0-02, 0-04f), Conor Feeney, Niall Moore, Shane Farren (Ciaran Lynch (1-00), Tiarnan Moore (0-01).
St Trea's Ballymaguigan: Aaron Cassidy, Shea Bradley, Liam Cassidy (Andrew McCartney), Michael Spiers, Paudie Martin, Ryan Ferris (Patsy Bateson), Tomás Brady (0-01), Johnny Crozier, Tomás Kealey (Gary Burke), Ciaran McIvor (c), Sean Brady, Fergal Johnston, Barry McGlone (1-01, 0-02f), Darren Conway (0-01f), Daniel Bradley (0-01, 0-02f).
Referee: Mark McGeehan ( Ballinderry Shamrocks)