Derry under-16 footballers enjoyed two very competitive games in Saturday’s Buncrana Cup finals, defeating hosts Donegal in the semi-final before going down narrowly to Monaghan in the decider.
Mid-day brought sunshine and showers to Inishowen and the opening two scores in as many minutes for the Oak Leaf, courtesy of Thomas Donnelly and Lorcan McWilliams.
Derry’s bright start was undone five minutes later as Donegal registered three answered points. The sides then went point-for-point with Ballinascreen’s John Paul Devlin twice bringing Derry level.
The crucial moment of the first half came just three minutes before the break when Donegal capitalised on a static Derry defence, Donegal’s Jack Flannery eventually finishing to the net for a four point lead. Four became five just before the break with a Paul Murphy free, leaving Derry facing an uphill second half.
Enter Damon Gallagher.
A blistering eight minute spell saw a five point deficit turned into a three point lead, with Bellaghy’s Gallagher registering 2-02 (1f) to leave the home side reeling.
Donegal’s first response - a point - came after 14 minutes of the second half but was quickly cancelled out by confident scores from Mark McGrogan and Oisin McWillams.
It was a five-point lead which forced Donegal to go searching for a goal but it never looked likely as tenacious defence from Lupari, Bradley and McCluskey saw the game out on a scoreline of Derry 2-08 Donegal 1-09.
The wear and tear after such a highly competitive semi-final took its toll with a number of changes required for the final against a Monaghan side who were emphatic 17-point winners over Armagh.
In front of a large crowd at Buncrana the sides went point for point, the first half ending level at 0-05 each.
On the restart, Monaghan made the decisive move of the game with a quick goal after only two minutes. Parity was quickly restored, however, when Newbridge’s Mark McGrogan netted at the other end almost immediately. Derry keeper, Odhran Lynch, then prevented a second Farney goal before three unanswered points saw Monaghan take charge.
Again, the game ebbed and flowed as Derry fought back to within a point - Lorcan McWilliams putting the minimum between the teams with 10 minutes remaining. Both teams finished strongly with a series of Monaghan points being cancelled out by a late McWilliams penalty for Derry. However, it was a late and a final surge which was brought to an end by the full time whistle signalling a two point victory for Monaghan.
Derry Buncrana Cup squad: Odhran Lynch (Magherafelt), Aaron Bradley (Ballinascreen), Giuseppe Lupari (Magherafelt), Conor McCluskey (Magherafelt), John Paul Devlin (Ballinascreen), Declan Cassidy (Bellaghy), Odhran Quinn (Bellaghy), Conor Quinn (Bellaghy), Marty Bradley (Ballinascreen), Dara Lee (Bellaghy), Lorcan McWilliams (Swatragh), Stephen Bradley (Greenlough), Thomas Donnelly (Lavey), Damon Gallagher (Bellaghy), Ruairi Rafferty (Drumsurn), Conor Campbell (Banagher) ,Mark McGrogan (Newbridge), Aaron Moore (Moneymore), Nathan Scullion (Lavey), Shane McIntyre (Ballerin), Dylan McAteer (Glen), Aidan Conway (Moneymore), Oisin McWillians (Swatragh), Dara Rafferty (Drumsurn), Eoghan Hay (Slaughtmanus), Cathair O’Doherty (Steelstown), Dylan Mullan (Ballerin), Ronan Coney (Loup), Shea Donnelly (Magherafelt), Cathal McErlean (Bellaghy), Daniel Walton (Ballerin), Emmett McKenna (Glenullin), Aodhan McFaul (Bellaghy).