Faughanvale 2-09, Drum 1-05
A blistering opening 11-minutes saw Faughanvale bridge a 16-year championship gap to claim the Joe Brolly Cup with a seven point victory over Drum at Owenbeg in the Derry Junior Final on Saturday evening.
Joe Gray’s team looked to have learned the lessons from the first final and once in front, they managed to keep a determined Drum fightback - which had the ‘Vale lead down to four points - at arm’s length.
The replay was the fifth meeting of the season between the two best sides in Junior football this season and, at times, the familiarity between the sides showed but few could have predicted the opening 11 minutes would see ‘Vale 10 points ahead and seemingly coasting to a first title since their 1999 Intermediate Championship win.
That they were made to fight so hard was testament to the spirit of a Drum side who have been unfortunate this season to run into a Faughanvale team that, in the end, were of worthy of their clean sweep of trophies having already lifted the Neal Carlin Cup and Division three title.
The opening exchanges of this replay were remarkable similar to last week’s game with ‘Vale assuming control and dictating the pace from the pace, Drum again slow to settle and ill at ease in the first minutes.
Indeed, it looked like the game had already been won in those opening minutes as Joe Gray’s team built a commanding 2-04 to no score lead with only 11 minutes on the clock.The player-manager got his side off and running with a free on 54 seconds before Kevin Martin’s excellent ball picked out Conor O’Hara to double the lead 60 seconds later.
Eunan Murray then broke two tackles to make it three Faughanvale points as Drum looked at each other for guidance but worse was to follow.
With six minutes gone, a long Martin McGuinness free dropped short but was pounced upon by O’Hara who got up above Drum keeper Cahair O’Kane to punch the ball into the net with the St. Colm’s keeper appealing for a square ball. It looked a very close call but the umpires had no hesitation awarding goal.
A difficult situation went to near impossible five minutes later when a superb ball from the right picked out the impressive Aaron Cassidy at the back post. The half-back’s angle was acute but he was aware enough to turn and find Eunan Murray who arrived at pace, side-stepped O’Kane and fired the ball into an unguarded net.
We had a great start to the game and that’s what set the platform for victoryFaughanvale player manager Joe Gray
When, seconds later, Kevin Martin sent over a a lovely score for 2-04 to no score the writing looked on the wall.
Except it is seldom ever as clear cut as that and once Drum eventually sorted themselves out, they started to reel ‘Vale in.
How much of that was down to ‘Vale easing off is debatable as St. Mary’s seemed determined to avoid a repeat of the first game in which they tired at the end of each half. Whatever the reason, Drum seized the initiative to dominate the remainder of the half and it would take ‘Vale until the second minute of the second half before they would score again.
The problem for St. Colm’s though was they never made their chances count. Five first half wides doesn’t seem overly wasteful but most were from very decent positions and would have made a huge difference to the scoreboard.
As it was, three Rory O’Reilly frees were all they had as ‘Vale went in at half-time 2-04 to 0-4 ahead and with Drum yet to register a score from play.
A poor kick-out from O’Kane gave Faughanvale that opening score of the second half but two more O’Reilly frees suggested Drum weren’t finished.
Cassidy got the point his ‘man of the match’ display deserved on 36 minutes before a Conor O’Kane goal threw Drum a life-line. A high ball toward the Faughanvale posts caused mayhem with players trying to hack clear before it was sliced up in the air where O’Kane judged his run perfectly to rise highest and punch Drum back into the game at 2-06 to 1-05 with still a quarter of the game to go.
Just when they needed some experience though, Joe Gray stepped up for ‘Vale. The St.Mary’s player-manager was in only his first year as a senior player back in 1999 when they won the Intermediate title but he showed he was still the man for the big occasion by hitting a superb 35m point to settle his side.
Another poor kick from the O’Kane then saw Kevin Martin fouled and the same player picked himself to send over the free and within seconds the momentum gained from the Drum goal had all but vanished.
If anything Faughnvale could have put an even more emphatic score on the board in the closing moments as twice Eunan Murray went close to goal, his second effort the game’s final score but it mattered little as players, fans and officials alike spilled out on the Owenbeg pitch to celebrate a memorable year for the Faughanvale.
Faughanvale: Daryl Moore; Declan McGuinness, Michael Sweeney, Gordon Fahey; Jordan Curran, Steven King, Aaron Cassidy (0-1); Odhran McKinney, Michael McLaughlin; Eoin McElhinney, Joe Gray (0-2, 2f), Martin McGuinness; Kevin Martin (0-2, 1f), Conor O’Hara (1-1), Eunan Murray (1-2). (Subs) Ryan King for C O’Hara (inj), 12mins; Sean Bradley for K Martin, 51mins; Oisin Quinn for M MCLaughlin, 56mins; Simon Green for O McKinney, 58mins; Martin Sweeney for D McGuinness, 60mins.
Drum: Cahair O’Kane, Liam Millar, Alex Moore, Niall Farren; Damian Brolly, Shaun McGlade; Niall Burke; James McCartney, Conor O’Kane (1-0); Niall Ferris; Corey O’Reilly, Donal Brolly; Conor O’Reilly,Ryan O’Kane, Rory O’Reilly (0-5, 5f). (Subs) Marc McLaughlin for R O’Kane, H/T; Ryan O’Hara for S McGlade, 40mins; Shane Millar for C O’Kane, 52mins; Dean Mulhern for A Moore, 56mins;
Referee: Anthony Campbell (Magherafelt)