Newbridge held on in a hectic last few minutes to reach a Division 2 league title and promotion decider against table toppers, and 2012 championship winners, Swatragh, with Foreglen’s promising season coming to abrupt end after narrow defeats on both championship and league fronts.
Seamus Mullan was in O’Cahan Park
Photographs: Jim McCafferty
The referee was a very busy man in the opening half, issuing a dozen yellow cards, the first as early as the opening minute when Nathan Rocks was booked for a frontal challenge on Ciaran McFeely that resulted in the Foreglen player being carried off and unable to return until about ten minutes from the end of the game.
Kevin O’Connor put Foreglen ahead from that free but Newbridge levelled a couple of minutes later through Peter McGrogan. Foreglen - who started without their influential midfielder Darren O’Kane and playmaker Niall McFeely, who injured an ankle in the championship final, were struggling to get into the game. Twelve minutes in Justin Bradley, who was a forceful presence in the middle of the field, swung the ball high into the goalmouth where Thomas Walls drifted in on the blindside of the Foreglen defence to fist the ball to the net.
Midway through the half the Foreglen defence parted like Red Sea as Ryan McElhone and Thomas Walls stormed through before Kevin Sweeney slipped the ball low beyond the outstretched hand of keeper Ronan Tracey for 2-01 to 0-01. It was the dream start for Newbridge and provided an invaluable cushion according to Newbridge coach Ryan Dougan.
“We played a lot of fluid football in the first half and we went in at half time deservedly four points in front,” explained Dougan.
“I thought the boys played very well but it was always going to be a tough game. Foreglen are a polished side and play a very fluid game themselves. They move the ball well and support each other well. But we countered that well today by stepping up on our men right across the pitch. We were very good at that tactic. Likewise we supported each other well when we had the ball.
“I thought the return of Eamon Burke to the side added a bit of depth to the team. I suppose our finishing was clinical in getting the goals. It was a cushion in the first half but, in the round, I thought we played very well in the whole game.”
Rocked as they were at the two goal burst, Foreglen refocused quickly although a Nigel Bradley pointed free was quickly followed by points from Danny Mulholland (free) and then Kevin Sweeney from a Brendan Donnelly pass.
Mark McCormick sparked the O’Brien’s into frenzied action with a superb 50m point, John Duffy on target in the 23rd minute and then substitute Sean Morahan after a strong run through the middle of the Newbridge defence.
Then the referee’s attention was drawn to a petty skirmish away from play and another delay ensued as he dished out three more yellow cards. When the dust had settled on that interruption Danny Mulholland gave the Newbridge fans an exquisite finish when the ball broke from a Justin Bradley ‘45’.
Five minutes of added time was signalled, and three more yellow cards brought the tally to a dozen, with Kevin O’Connor from a free and Peter McGrogan closing the half with points for 2-06 to 0-07 for the O’Leary’s.
Such had been the intermittent fractious outbursts in the half nobody would have been placing bets at half time that the second half would be free of cards of a different hue! But so it proved with Foreglen wing-back Conrad Sheerin shown a straight red card after an altercation with Mulholland.
Then as Ryan McElhone was preparing to take the free, the referee spotted Eoghan Duffy holding Mulholland off the ball and the resulting free was pointed by Peter McGrogan. He landed another free when Paul Kealey fouled Justin Bradley, six points separating the teams at 2-07 to 0-07 ten minutes into the half.
Newbridge were in control and midway through the half Mulholland pointed a free before former Derry player Ryan McElhone played a one-two with him to before release Thomas Walls to score his second goal to put the ‘Bridge in total control at 3-08 to 0-07.
In the 53rd minute Nigel Bradley pointed a free, Kevin O’Connor adding another from a free as Foreglen came back with a late scoring surge and reduced the margin to five points.
Ciaran McFeely came back into the game to set up Eunan McFeely for the 10th point. He then pointed himself as five minutes of additional time was indicated with Newbridge 3-08 to 0-11 in the lead.
A minute into that period Kevin O’Connor pointed a free when Morahan was fouled but the yellow and red cards frenzy was not yet over! Newbridge player Michael Bateson picked up a second yellow card and then a red one, as did Foreglen’s Nigel Bradley with three minutes of added time still remaining.
Just before Bradley saw red he was on the end of a good passing movement between Niall and Ciaran McFeely and made it a nervy finish for Newbridge with a well taken goal.
However the final whistle sounded not long afterwards and the teams went their separate ways without further exchanges of pleasantries!
With the return of a number of players Newbridge seemed to have their strongest side on show for the first time this season.
“It probably was,” agreed Dougan, “With injuries, the odd suspension and players being away to Australia and what not, the side has been badly damaged. It was our strongest showing this year. That’s more the class of Newbridge football that they’re used to playing. Let’s hope that we can build from here.”
It was emphasised to the Newbridge players after the game that ‘they had won nothing yet’ and Ryan Dougan expanded on those comments, “No we haven’t! It’s important in things like this to stay grounded. We stay grounded. There’s a league cup to be won and that’s what we are after ultimately and the reward that would then ensue for next year. We are going to be very focused. We have a week’s work and a big task ahead of us. We are looking forward to it and we’ll see how we get on.”
Newbridge scorers: Thomas Walls 2-00, Kevin Sweeney 1-01, Peter McGrogan 0-04 (2f) and Danny Mulholland 0-03 (1f)
Foreglen scorers: Nigel Bradley 1-03 (1f), Kevin Connor 0-04 (3f), John Duffy, Sean Morahan, Eunan McFeely, Ciaran McFeely and Mark McCormick 0-01 each
Newbridge: Michael O’Neill; Declan McKeever, Gerard Burke, James Gilmore; Odhran Scott, Michael Bateson, Nathan Rocks; Brendan Donnelly, Justin Bradley; Kevin Sweeney, Ryan McElhone, Danny Mulholland; Peter McGrogan, Eamon Burke, Thomas Walls. (Subs) Gary Walls for B Donnelly 40 mins; Ciaran Brooks for O Scott 41 mins; Niall Sweeney for P McGrogan (inj) 52 mins; Stephen Lynch for J Bradley 62 mins
Foreglen: Ronan Tracey; Rory Duffy, Cathal O’Hara, Pauric Duffy; Conrad Sheerin, John Duffy, Paul Kealey; Oisin Duffy, Mark McCormick; Martin Farrell, Ciaran McFeely, Nigel Bradley; Eoghan Duffy, Kevin O’Connor, Eunan McFeely. (Subs) Sean Morahan for C McFeely (inj) 1 min; Niall McFeely for E Duffy 43 mins; Ciaran McFeely for P Kealey 50 mins
Referee: Sean Hamill (Ballerin)