Dunloy, Ballymena

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Review - Derry Football 2018


64 games of adult championship action in Derry this season. They ranged from error-ridden and instantly forgettable to free-flowing and technically brilliant, but the beauty of club championship meant that every game had its own narrative and fair share of drama.


In the end, there could only be five winners, and worthy winners they were, with a distinct North Derry feel to those taking the plaudits.


Senior Football Championship

Winners - Eoghan Rua


The SFC was a slow burner. In a jam-packed opening round, we covered six of the eight matches. Hats off to the Derry CCC for the spreading of fixtures to allow supporters to attend all the games.


Eventual winners Coleraine navigated their opening round game with Glenullin without really having to exit their comfort zone, while the following day The Loup eventually overcame the stubborn Claudy challenge to book their place in the Quarter-Finals.


Glen's opening win over Swatragh was dominated by the early dismissal of James Kearney. With Davitt's in a commanding position, it gave Watty Graham's the impetus to push on and win despite a dogged second half comeback from Swatragh.


It was a profligate Bellaghy that exited the championship, missing numerous chances before a two-goal Benny Heron salvo sent Screen in to the last eight in Owenbeg. The Wolfe Tones will look back with regret having seen their young side fall at the first hurdle.


The following day in Bellaghy, Greenlough comfortably accounted for Newbridge before a less than convincing Ballinderry performance was enough to see off Kilrea, Ryan Bell excelling in midfield with his opposite number James Kielt doing his utmost to keep Kilrea in the game.


Lavey prevailed in a dour affair against Dungiven in Owenbeg, with Aidan and Niall Toner shining, before we were subjected to a game that could infamously be referred to as 'Tad-gate'. The video of Pádraig Cassidy soloing the ball back and forth along his own 45m line as the Magherafelt team massed in front of him for the last four minutes of the first half went viral, and is etched in the memory of those who were present. In the end, Slaughtneil won comfortably.


At the Quarter-Final stage, there were wins for Ballinascreen and Glen, the former ending in acrimony after an incident with the referee. The other two games ended level, The Loup and Lavey match a tense, dogged affair, and the Slaughtneil v Eoghan Rua game the mirror opposite, Richard Carey's late point sending it to a replay.


Both replays brought the championship to life, played under lights in Owenbeg. The Loup and Lavey served up an electric display of attacking football, with Niall Toner again leading the Lavey forward unit, engaging in a shoot out with the Devlins and Anthony O'Neill of St Patrick's


A packed Owenbeg then witnessed the dethroning of Derry and Ulster champions Slaughtneil, Liam McGoldrick's late, late point clinching victory in a titanic struggle to send the Eoghan Rua men into the last four.


It was at the Semi-Final stage where the Coleraine side saw off bogey team Ballinascreen, taking advantage of an early goal to control the remainder of the game and save their legs after the mid-week exploits. In the other Semi-Final, Glen were defeated by Erin's Own, the Lavey side defending and attacking superbly to reach a first final since 1998.


The final itself was a tense affair, with Eoghan Rua's experience seeing them over the line against an Erin's Own side who will definitely see this stage again very soon.


The North Coast men went on to suffer Ulster Semi-Final heartbreak. After defeating Castlerahan, a last minute Rory Beggan point sent them out of Ulster at the hands of Scotstown.



Intermediate Football Championship

Winners - St Mary's Banagher


Favourites after their relegation from the Senior ranks, St Mary's Banagher, took the spoils at Intermediate level, but were forced to a replay by rivals Foreglen in the opening round, before eventually getting through at the second attempt.


There were also first round wins for Doire Trasna, Steelstown and Faughanvale who all made it through to the Quarter Final stage.


Their opponents in the final, Ballymaguigan, kicked off their championship with a derby win of their own in the Quarter Final against Castledawson in Swatragh, Darren Conway shining throughout. St Malachy's had Niall Keenan black carded which was a blow in the first half, and the strong running of Sean Brady and Michael Spiers proved too much for 'Dawson.


Drumsurn eased through to the last four with a convincing win over St Colm's Drum, while Faughanvale battled to defeat against Banagher and Steelstown won the city battle with Doire Trasna to reach the last four.


Ballymaguigan proved too much for Drumsurn in the Semi-Final, while Banagher comfortably saw off Steelstown and the two met at Owenbeg in the Final, where the Feeny side bridged a 66 year gap to clinch the Bateson, Sheridan and Lee Cup.


In Ulster, Banagher made history by competing in the first ever football free kick competition to decide their Semi-Final with Mullahoran of Cavan. Having seen off Blenaleck and Glenfin to make it to Armagh, two periods of extra time could not separate them and they lost in the cruellest way possible.



Junior Football Championship

Winners - Na Cúnna Limavady


In the JFC, Limavady Wolfhounds defeated all who presented themselves in front of them on their way to a historic treble, winning the Div 3 league, Neil Carlin Cup and the JFC as they defeated Moneymore in the final.


Moneymore themselves had suffered defeat to Glack in the opener and had to battle their way back to reach the final, with Callan Bloomer and Paudie O'Neill instrumental to their determination.


Na Cúnna won their opening two games and made it to the Semi-Finals along with Sean Dolan's, while through the qualifiers came Moneymore and Glack to join them in the last four.


Both Henry Joys and Limavady were comfortable winners and made it through to the showpiece, where Cormac Quigley and Ruairí Hasson dazzled the Joy's defenders to take the title with plenty to spare.


In a common theme for Derry sides in Ulster, they defeated Teconnaught and Aghadrumsee to reach the final, where they lost in heartbreaking circumstances to Red Hughs of Donegal.


U21 Football Championship

Winners - O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt


There was a particularly satisfying victory for Tom Mansuell's men in the Derry U21 Football Championship. Despite some excellent development and truly talented players, an underage title had evaded Rossa, but they sealed the deal with victory over Faughanvale in the final at Slaughtneil in November.


U21 B Football Championship

Winners - Ballinderry Shamrocks


Having seen their Quarter Final against Eoghan Rua conceded, the Shamrocks lads defeated Banagher in the Semi-Final of the Harry O'Kane Cup, and overcame Lissan in the final of the competition in Glenullin. Ballinderry will hope this team can go on to make an impact at Senior level over the next few years.


Statistical Analysis

1. Blanket Defence?

With the exceptions of league winners Banagher and Limavady, all of the top ten scoring teams in Derry ply (or plied) their trade in Division 1. With the standard of defending usually at at lower level down the leagues, one would expect to see more teams from these leagues in the higher echelons of the scoring charts, but it is testament to the quality of forwards in Division 1 that they occupy 80% of the top ten.


2. Pointing the Way

As if to back up our first point, a look at the 'Points Conceded' data shows no Division 1 side in the top ten. Limavady, Glack, Magilligan and Ógra Colmcille were the four teams least troubled by point-scorers, all from Division 3, while Division 2 sides make up the rest of the top ten. Slaughtneil were the Division 1 side who conceded the least points, and duly won the league.


3. Wolfhounds Ready to Step Up

Na Cúnna it would seem are more than ready to make the step into Division 1B. They sit third for points scored, even though they played in a Division where goals were easily found. Indeed, they sit 2nd in this particular ranking, trailing Banagher by one. They conceded the least goals and points in the entire league and had the best overall score difference. It all points to a team playing well below their level and the expectation will be there next year that they push on.


4. North Derry Dominance?

A glance at the championship winners would suggest a fine year for North Derry sides, capturing all three titles. A look at the league data sees them occupy 40% of the top ten goalscorers, but only 20% of the top ten point scorers. They make up 40% of the top ten in terms of goals conceded but 100% of the top ten in terms of points conceded, a revealing statistic into the sides' workrate. When it all comes together for Overall Score Difference though, its a 50-50 split, with five from each area in the top ten. Either way, it's been a good year for North Derry.


5. The Anomalies

Spare a thought for Pearse's Kilrea and St Oliver Plunkett's Greenlough. The Kilrea men were the 6th highest point scorers in the entire league and with players like James Kielt, Paddy Quigg and Paddy McNeill in their ranks that is understandable, yet they found themselves relegated through Score Difference on a crazy Saturday in August. Greenlough, also relegated from Division 1, boasted the 5th best record for Goals Conceded in the division. Relegation is a cruel mistress.


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Want more detail? Have a look at how the Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 clubs fared...

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