Claudy 4-12, Dungiven 1-12
As the sizeable crowd basked in the sunshine at Paddy O’Neill Park on Sunday evening, holders Dungiven and 2013 champions Claudy produced a free-flowing game that ebbed and flowed from start to finish.
Nine points separated the sides at the final whistle but really the game was much closer than that margin might suggest.
Claudy’s first goal came in the fifth minute from an Aaron Kerrigan penalty when he was upended in the goalmouth by a Sean McNicholl sliding tackle, with the fourth goal right at the death when Kerrigan buried the ball in the back of the net for a personal tally of 3-04!
That brought him the ‘player of the match’ accolade, just ahead of his colleague Conor Johnston whose storming runs through the middle were the catalyst for many of the Mitchel’s scores.
In between those two majors, Claudy were always that bit sharper, with Shane McGahon and Blaine Carlin dominant in the middle third, Johnston dynamic at centre-back and Kerrigan utterly clinical.
Yet even though Dungiven started with an experimental 13 after injury robbed them of several key players, they were still well placed at only 1-04 to 0-06 behind two minutes from half time.
Dungiven should have levelled at that stage but Jamie McGonigle, whose pace kept the Claudy defence on their toes, spurned an easy chance for a point.
Then, from the kick-out, keeper Aidan McLaughlin, as he’d done without any pressure throughout the half, picked out the unmarked Barry Cartin with Oran Armstrong and Sé Kerrigan then carrying the ball goalwards unchallenged before it was offloaded to the marauding Johnston to drill a ‘daisy cutter’ across the goalmouth to thud against the base of the post and find the back of the net to put Claudy 2-04 to 0-07 ahead.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, Dungiven had made three changes in personnel, Darrell O’Kane coming on at half-time, Ryan McElhinney in the 34th minute and James Kelly in the 40th minute and all three boosted the Dungiven challenge, but by that stage the task had become even more difficult.
The second half whad barely started when the Dungiven keeper committed a carbon copy foul on Shane McGahon in the goalmouth and once again the outcome was a penalty and a trademark finish from Kerrigan who drilled the ball into the far corner.
Seven points now separated the sides, Dungiven not helping their own cause with some woeful finishing.
Claudy were also guilty of some wasteful shooting but two superb points from Blaine Carlin and one from the mercurial Kerrigan between the 45th and 48th minutes opened up a nine point gap and dampened Dungiven’s hopes.
Five minutes from time Jamie McGonigle crossed the ball deftly from the right into the path of Darrel O’Kane and he palmed the ball to the back of the net to cut the advantage to six points with four minutes left.
But the glimmer of hope was quickly extinguished and fittingly it was Kerrigan who applied the coup de grace with a 1-01 salvo to ensure that the Mitchel’s would lift the silverware.
After the game, Claudy manager Michael O’Kane, said the well worn adage of ‘goals winning matches’ had again proved pertinent.
“Dungiven won last year by hitting goals,” explained O’Kane, “Claudy won it by scoring goals. It’s something we try to work on. It was like the game against Drumsurn in the league on Thursday night as we got goals at just the right time. That kept Dungiven at arms’ length once we got the first one but look it’s only the Kerlin Cup. We don’t want the Kerlin Cup to define our season.
“It defined Claudy’s season two years ago. They won the Kerlin Cup and did nothing else after it. We are not going to let this define our season. It is a distraction. We came out this evening to play the game and win it. That’s all it is, another game.”
On the outstanding displays of Kerrigan, Johnston and Blaine Carlin, the Claudy managed said it was fitting they were getting the recognition they deserved.
“They are all good footballers and I’m glad that some of those chaps are going to get a bit of credit now. They are as good as any of the players within a 20 mile radius. Just because they are from Claudy some people maybe think they are not as good as anybody else in North Derry.”
His parting words were probably meant to bring his players back to the reality of what he viewed as the goal for the season.
He said simply, “Look this was a distraction. We have won it and we’re glad to have won it but it is a bonus more than anything. The league is our main focus.”
Claudy: Aidan McLaughlin; Dermot McFeely, Fionnan Smith, Lee O’Kane; Barry Cartin, Conor Johnston (1-01), Callum McElhinney (0-1); Oran Armstrong, Shane McGahon, Eoin McGahan (0-02); Blaine Carlin (0-03), Sé Kerrigan (0-01), Aaron Kerrigan (3-04, 2pen, 1f). (Subs) Jamie Donaghy for L O’Kane, 15 mins; Oran McCloskey for O Armstrong, H-T; Paul White for D McFeely, 38 mins; Conor McGarvey for C Johnston Blood Sub 58 mins (reversed 60 mins); Daryl Devine for C McElhinney, 60 mins.
Dungiven: Sean McNicholl; Marty McCloskey, Aaron McCloskey, Craig Chewning; Davie Mclaughlin, Daniel Mullan, Gabriel McGuigan; Eunan Smith (0-1), Martin Burke (0-2, 2f), Eoin Quigg (0-1); Sean Murray (0-1), Jamie McGonigle (0-1), Sean O’Neill (0-1). (Subs) Darrell O’Kane (1-01, 1f) for Martin Burke H-T; Ryan McElhinney (0-4, 4f) for E Quigg 35 mins; James Kelly for E Smith 40 mins; Stephen McGuigan for G McGuigan 50 mins
Referee: John Joe Cleary