Dunloy, Ballymena

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Rossa Survive Late Banagher Onslaught

St Mary's Banagher 1-09

O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt 1-10

The 2019 Banagher fairy tale came to an end at a rain-swamped Owenbeg this evening as O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt's early scoring momentum was enough to fend off a second-half Banagher advance and clinch a place in the O'Neill's Derry SFC Final.

Conor Kearns' early goal had given Rossa an early lead, but a Niall Moore major minutes later for Banagher kept St Mary's in touch at the break and with the wind at their back after half-time, the IFC holders pushed on.

Such was the Banagher dominance in the second half that Magherafelt could only muster one point from a placed ball, but a gallant effort fell short in the final seconds, Conor Feeney's misplaced pass lifting the siege on the Rossa posts.

Magherafelt exploded into life with the lively Paddy McLarnon popping over an early score, before a Shane Heavron free doubled their lead.

Niall Moore then reacted fastest to a loose ball to point after a Conor Feeney shot ricocheted back off the upright, but having halved the lead, Banagher then fell further behind after the game's opening goal.

Quick thinking from Shane Heavron from a free found Conor Kearns, who raced clear to slot low past the onrushing Darrel McDermott, who had saved a similar effort from Conor McCluskey just minutes earlier.

Danny Heavron then joined his brother on the scoresheet, arrowing over a long-range effort, before Shane fired over another big score as the game threatened to run away from St Mary's.

They needed a score and a score duly came. A high Mark Lynch effort dropped in front of goal and Niall Moore collected the break before shooting past Odhran Lynch at the near-post from 20 yards out.

Magherafelt responded well and playing with a stiff breeze, fired over 0-03 without reply, a Shane Heavron brace and Paddy McLarnon point stretching the lead to 7 points.

Tiarnan Moore lifted the siege but Shane Heavron took advantage of a rare poor kick out from McDermott to slip in Conor Kearns for a minor to restore the gap with 25 minutes played.

McDermott then redeemed himself by denying Conor McCluskey a second time and Banagher cleared upfield for Ciaran Lynch to leave five between them at the break.

With the wind now at their back, Mark Lynch lifted a roar from the crowd with an early score wide on the right before Shane Heavron tapped over Magherafelt's final score of the game in the 32nd minute.

Points from Tiarnan Moore and Shane Murphy in the 33rd and 40th minute saw the gap reduced to three points as Banagher began to bombard the Magherafelt defence. The Murphy score came after a raking, 60-yard crossfield ball from Lynch as he spotted the run of Tiarnan Moore.

A Conor Feeney score left two between them but Magherafelt momentarily wrestled back control of proceedings, only their wastefulness in front of goal preventing them from hitting back.

Banagher too were guilty of missing chances, with Mark Lynch hitting two uncharacteristic wides while St Mary's were in the ascendancy, but with the game edging into stoppage time, Lynch launched one over from 50 yards and the gap was suddenly the minimum.

The Owenbeg crowd spent the final three minutes on their feet as both teams laboured in the downpour. Banagher looked to have engineered one last chance but Conor Feeney misplaced his pass to the waiting Darren O'Neill and while St Mary's worked the ball back up the pitch, Conor Kearns dispossessed Shane Murphy and brought it clear to the sound of the final whistle.

Magherafelt await the outcome of tomorrow's second Semi-Final between Sleacht Néill and Glen but will make their way home in the torrential rain happy to be in their first final since 1983.

St Mary's: Darrel McDermott, Shane Murphy (0-01), Darragh McCloskey, Michael Anderson, Peter Hagan, Tiarnan McCloskey, Steafan McCloskey, Brian Óg McGilligan, Mark Lynch (0-01, 0-02f), Ciaran Lynch (0-01), Gavin O'Neill, Conor Feeney (0-02), Niall Moore (1-01), Shane Farren, Tiarnan Moore (0-01).

Subs: John Lynch for Tiarnan McCloskey 35', Cahir McGilligan for Ciaran Lynch 57'.

O'Donovan Rossa: Odhran Lynch, Simon McErlain, Darren O'Neill, Guiseppe Lupari, Conor McCluskey, Fergal Duffin, Conor Kearns (1-01), Jared Monaghan, Daniel Heavron (0-01), Patrick McLarnon (0-02), Shane Heavron (0-01, 0-5), John Young, Antone McElhone, Cormac Murphy, Emmet McGuckin.

Subs: Declan Martin for Antone McElhone 47', Sean Óg Monaghan for John Young 51', Joe Keenan for Guiseppe Lupari 50', Conor Doherty for Shane Heavron 60'.

Referee: Damien Harkin - St Mary's Slaughtmanus

Man of the Match: Shane Heavron - O'Donovan Rossa