Dungiven lay down a marker in feisty championship opener

Bone-crunching tackles, great scores, action and on and off the ball - welcome to the Derry Senior Football Championship.

It was the real deal at Owenbeg in front of over 3,000 fans as Dungiven laid down a marker with a deserved two point win over pre-match favourites, Kilrea.

Dungiven had been lying low this season but now they have been unveiled as serious contenders for the John McLaughlin Cup and Kilrea cannot be discounted either even after defeat in this heavyweight clash.

Kilrea had their chances, they were awarded a 19th minute penalty when Paddy McNeill went down under a diving tackle from James McNicholl.

Dungiven claimed the tackle as fair but experienced referee, Martin McErlane pointed to the spot.

There is no better penalty taker around than James Kielt, he hit it well but Dungiven keeper Kevin Farren guessed right and made a terrific save. At that stage Dungiven were 0-4 to 0-3 in front.

Then in the 59th minute with the winners a point in front James Kielt saw his scoreable free drift just wide.

Remarkably Dungiven were never behind, they were three up inside nine minutes and 0-08 to 0-05 in front at the interval.

After Denver Johnston had posted an early Kilrea wide Dungiven showed their attacking credentials when Kevin Johnston placed Donal McGilligan for a point after two minutes.

The lead was soon up to two when McGilligan punished a foul on Fergal McGuigan.

Nine minutes in and Dungiven were three in front when Joe Morgan fouled Donal McGilligan and Ryan McElhinney hit the target.

In the 12th minute Kilrea had their first score, a neat pass from Eamon Darragh found Patrick McNeill and he did not miss.

Vibrant Dungiven hit back immediately when half back James McNicholl got on the end of a Darrel O’Kane pass for an excellent score.

Midway through the half Kennedy registered a brilliant score form play and when Paddy Kelly fouled Benny Quigg big James Kielt was spot on to leave the score 0-4 to 0-3.

Kilrea were now winning more possession in the middle third and then came the penalty hotly disputed by Dungiven. James Kielt hit it well to the left of keeper Farren and the young keeper dived to make a great save.

As Dungiven got a grip on matters McElhinney steered over a brilliant score from a tight angle.

McElhinney then had a shot deflected for ’45 which Kevin Johnston converted and Dungiven led by 0-6 to 0-3.

Kilrea showed their bounceability with a fine score from Kennedy before a quick Dungiven counter attack saw McElhinney double the scores again.

Kilrea hit the ground running in the second half and McNeill sent over. Mickey Moran’s men were really on ire as John Darragh hit over a terrific point and when sub Sean McMahon set up Lee Kennedy it was 0-8 to 0-5 with just five minutes of the half gone.

A needless foul on Donal McGilliagan in Dungiven’s first attack of the half yielded an easy free converted by McElhinney. Mark Craig did well to clear a James Kielt effort as Stephen Johnston came in for James Donaghy.

From a full 60 metres Kielt landed a superb point but when Kilrea threatened Dungiven seemed able to give response and when James McNicholl set up Darrel O’Kane they were back to a two point lead.

With eight minutes left it was back in the melting pot when Lee Kennedy got on the end of a four man move to leave just a point between them.

Two minutes into added time a late tackle on Kevin Boyle left Donal McGilligan with a simple free and he didn’t miss and Kilrea were into the qualifying group and Dungiven into the winners group.

DUNGIVEN - Kevin Farren, Marty McCloskey, Mark Craig, Gavin McLaughlin, Liam Hinphey, Paddy Kelly, James McNicholl (0-1), Kevin Johnston (0-1 ’45), Aaron McCloskey, Kevin Hinphey, Darrell O’Kane (0-1), Padraig McCloskey, Ryan McElhinney (0-5, 0-1free) Donal McGilligan (0-3, 0-2frees) , Fergal McGuigan. Subs Kevin Boyle for P McCloskey (45) Sean Murray for D O’Kane and Eoghan Quigg for K Hinphey both (55) Sean O’Kane for A McCloskey (57)

KILREA - Paul Morgan, Dermot Morrow, Joe Morgan Brian Og McAlary, Conor McWilliams, Charlie Kielt, Niall Gorman, Denver Johnston, James Kielt (0-2free), James Donaghy (0-1), Benny Quigg, Eamon Darragh, Tiernan Rafferty, Lee Kennedy (0-4), Patrick McNeill (0-2). Subs Sean McMahon for T Rafferty h/t, Aidan Rainey for B Quigg h/t John Darragh for J Morgan (49) Stephen Johnston for J Donaghy (52) Jack Kielt for C McWilliams (52).