Remarkably it will be déjà vu for patrons of this weekend’s decider with holders Dungiven and Foreglen reprising the 2010 decider at Paddy O’Neill Park, Claudy and Foreglen will be hoping against hope that lighting doesn’t strike twice.
Played before the biggest crowd at O’Neill Park, Claudy since these sides met seven years previously in the final Dungiven were crowned champions a historic 25th time after what turned out to be an epic encounter between these age-old rivals following an indifferent first half performance from both sides.
In their 2004 clash many fans were streaming out of the ground long before the final whistle, Dungiven ten points ahead at half-time, four further goals in the second half giving Dungiven a tally of six. Game over in the eyes of those who were well on their way home by the final whistle!
No such scenario last time as the 0-05 to 0-03 Dungiven lead at half time ensuring that the game was still very much in the melting pot..
Whereas the game had been ponderous, shapeless and mediocre in the first half, it burst into life in the second, first when Dungiven forged six points clear and then by an inventive and superbly taken 57th minute O’Brien’s strike that tied the scores for the fourth time. Now the fans were at fever pitch, Foreglen in the ascendancy, Dungiven very much under the cosh.
But there would be sting in the tail, a script that might only have been written by someone with a macabre, perverse even sense of occasion!
With seconds of normal time remaining, the light fading and extra time looming large in the gloom, Dungiven had a chance to take the lead when Dungiven captain Fergal McGuigan stepped up to take a free 20m out, midway infield from the right side line. He put it wide, disappointment and relief the prevailing emotions among the respective supporters.
The stop-watch moved into the first minute of added time when Ryan McElhinney swung the ball into the goalmouth from the left. Foreglen keeper Ronan Tracey was watchful as the ball dropped, maybe going over the bar, maybe not!
He brought it down but, before he could get it into his outstretched hands, Darrell O’Kane reacted instantly to fist the ball out of the reach of his grasping hands and into the back of the net.
Still, as it turned out, almost six minutes of additional time would be played, Foreglen straining every sinew as they sought an equalising goal. Try as they did all they could muster was a fifth Kevin O’Connor point.
Now fate has decreed that these age old rivals will meet again in the Dr. Kerlin Cup Final, the scenario much the same, holders Dungiven again the favourites to lift their 26th title, Foreglen the underdogs, but a position they will relish against Dungiven.
As last year Foreglen will be without Oisin Duffy, Dungiven almost certainly without Gavan and Davie McLaughlin with hamstring injuries and Rian Kealey who will not be back from the States until mid-summer.
Still Dungiven, who have lost just one game in seven league matches will have a very strong panel to select from, but they will be wary of the O’Brien’s, mindful of how close they came they came to defeat last year.
In the semifinal Foreglen knocked out Glenullin, while Dungiven got the better of Craigbane. Another intriguing encounter in prospect!