Dungiven off bottom but work to do as Claudy miss chances

CRUCIAL SCORES . . .Dungiven's Conor Murphy.
CRUCIAL SCORES . . .Dungiven's Conor Murphy.

H&A Mechanical Services ACFL Division One

Claudy 1-13, Dungiven 1-15

Dungiven are off and running in Division One at the fifth time of asking but questions remain after Sunday’s two points victory over Claudy in O’Neill Park.

There was nothing pretty about this victory but aesthetics are not the priority when your are bottom of the table. St Canice’s needed a win; any sort of win. Sunday was slightly disjointed, fortunate and even cynical at times but it was a win.

Experience was key.

Claudy let this one slip. The visitors adopted quite a negative approach to curtail the speed and mobility of a Mitchel’s team that still had more than enough chances to win the game. Eight first half wides and four shots dropped short was more than Dungiven registered in the entire 60 minutes.

The O’Cahan’s were happy to retreat inside their ‘45 every time they lost possession and seek turnover ball, leaving only three men outside to be joined by the mass break out once the ball was won.

It allowed Claudy to build from the back with short kick-outs and once primary possession had been secured, Dungiven often struggled with the pace of the Claudy team and conceded far too many fouls. Tactical fouls? Probably, but when you are at the wrong end of the table, you do what you have to win.

Niall O’Neill’s 24th minute goal, set up by great work from Kevin Boyle down the left, was the crucial score providing Dungiven with a cushion they carried for majority of the match. And when they needed their big players, Kevin Johnston and Conor Murphy stood up with vital points to kept Dungiven just out of reach of the frustrated home team.

Aaron Kerrigan’s penalty with six minutes set up a grandstand finish by bringing it back to 1-12 to 1-14. The Claud danger man been illegally held up by the otherwise excellent Davy McLaughlin and Dungiven always looked to have the ‘know-how’ that playing at this level brings.

Murphy and Johnston were not at their best but their combined five points from play were of the highest quality and made the difference. Sean O’Kane and the lively James McNicholl got through a Trojan amount of work while Ryan McElhinney was a real handful but the worry is a more clinical or experienced Division One team will not let them off the hook as Claudy did at times.

Shane McGahon was superb for the home side, probably the game’s stand-out player, but the elusive Aaron Donaghy wasn’t far behind and caused Dungiven no end of problems by picking up breaks, constantly finding space and building attacks with surging runs.

Dungiven had built an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead by the 10th minute with Claudy losing Ross Stevenson to injury within 30 seconds of the throw-in. Both side were guilty of wayward finishing in those opening exchanges which the visitors shaded but Claudy had levelled by the time O’Neill hit the Dungiven goal which ensured the visitors led 1-5 to 0-04 at the break.

It was a lead Claudy could not eat into, three points being as much as they brought it back to before Kerrigan’s goal, despite dominating possession. On six separate occasions in the second half a Claudy score was followed by a Dungiven point. That ability to respond won Dungiven the game.

Relief no doubt for St. Canice’s but both team could take things from the game. For Dungiven this is a start but there remains plenty of work ahead to climb the table while Claudy showed the deserve to be at this level and with the return to full fitness of players like Eoin McGahon and Marty Donaghy, they can hurt teams.

Claudy: Aidan McLaughlin, Ross Stevenson, Barry Cartin, Lee O’Kane; Aaron Donaghy (0-1), Conor Johnston, Callum McElhinney; Darrell Devine, Shea Kerrigan (0-1); Paddy Hargan (0-1), Shane McGahon (0-1), Oran Armstrong; James McClay (0-3, 2f), Blaine Carlin (0-1), Aaron Kerrigan (1-5, 1pen, 4f, 1 forty-five). (Subs) Conall White for R Stevenson (inj), 1min; Martin Donaghy for D Devine 40mins; Jamie Donaghy for M Donaghy (inj) 53mins.

Dungiven: Sean McNicholl; Ciaran Steele, Davy McLaughlin, Craig Chewning; Kevin Boyle, Kevin Johnston (0-2), Martin Burke (0-3, 3f); Sean O’Kane, Daniel Mullan; Niall O’Neill (1-2), Conor Murphy (0-3), Thomas Brady; Eoghan Quigg (0-1), Ryan McElhinney (0-4, 2f), James McNicholl. (Subs) Martin McCloskey for C Steele, 46mins;

Black Card: Thomas Brady, 48mins (replaced by Sean O’Neill).

Referee: JJ Cleary