On Friday evening amongst a windswept Kilrea, Newbridge did what they had to do, but no more.
Indeed, the favouites failed to find the net for just the second time all season and on another day, Limavady could perhaps have raised a green flag on three or four occasions. As well as that, for 16 minutes of the second half, the most potent attack in Intermediate football was kept scoreless.
Afterwards ‘Bridge manager John Mulholland said, “It’s always good to get a good performance but at the end of the day, it’s results you’re looking for,” the full forward said, “Championship is about results. We just need to push on and take it to the next level no matter who we get in the next round.
Again though, despite Limavady’s sterling defensive displays when every man in yellow seemed to be pushing out and tackling, Newbridge had trump cards which revealed themselves in outrageous cases such as McElhone’s left wing effort just when it looked like the door had been slammed shut in that attack. It was a frightening score, one which was acknowledged from the Limavady dugout. Sometimes, you can only hold your hands up.
Newbridge tried something different in the absence of Michael Bateson. The usually accurate Kevin Sweeney was deployed on the inside line to form a rare three man attack with individuals most other clubs would kill for. It didn’t work nearly as much as it could have though, largely due to Limavady’s tenacity at the back, to Conor Boyd’s interceptions, to Chris Hunter’s remarkable stifling of the razor sharp McGrogan and Sweeney was soon withdrawn to his normal wing forward role.
At the restart, Limavady soon got it right though. With the wind at their backs, everything was sent route one to the inside line. James Thompson, having arrived at Kilrea fresh from Scotland, came into the fold and started running at the backline.
Three Wolfhound scores without reply could so easily have been more as the north Derry outfit threatened to open up on their adversaries. Only James Gilmore’s diving heroics denied Declan Logue a goal before McGregor palmed a high ball wide and then the same boy’s perhaps over zealous attempt to play Kelly through was intercepted. But that’s what made Limavady so dangerous. They had an obsession with bursting the net.
“Some of our players, that’s just the way they play, they play a bit off the cuff,” he said, “You can’t really coach that. Sometimes it works. We rattled in four goals last week in a league game and we played Newbridge earlier in the year and scored four goals against them. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s easier said in hindsight that we should have taken the points.
“I’ve never been more gutted after a game of football,” Toner continued, “Those boys worked their socks off and I think that’s the second time this year in the championship that the team we played got out of jail. I think we were probably the better team overall but we just weren’t clinical in front of goal, our Achilles heel in the last couple of games.”
Newbridge: Michael O’Neill; Ciaran Brooks, Gerard Burke, Declan McKeever; Odhran Scott, Brendan Donnelly, James Gilmore; Stephen Lynch, Ryan Carron; Gary Walls, Ryan McElhone (0-4), Nathan Rocks (0-1); Kevin Sweeney, Danny Mulholland (0-4, 0-1f), Peter McGrogan (0-2, 0-1f). (Subs) SP McCann (0-1) for K Sweeney (50), Justin Bradley for S Lynch (56), Niall Sweeney for P McGrogan (60)
Limavady: Phelim Mullan; Michael McVeigh, Ruairi O’Kane, Chris Hunter; Sean Forrest (0-1), Conor Boyd, Des Loughery; Ruairi Mailey, Ciaran Moore; Eoghan Kelly (0-4, 0-2f), John Deighan, Richard King (0-2f); Declan Logue, Conor Forrest (0-1), Aaron McGregor. (Subs) James Thompson (0-1) for R King (HT); Gerard Logue for C Forrest (41), Conor Forrest for S Forrest (51)