DUNGIVEN’S Ulster dream is over for 12 months at least, a late scoring spree from Mayobridge on Sunday secured the Down champions’ safe passage into the Thomas Devlin Cars sponsored Under 21 Club Football Championship Final.
Mayobridge, thanks to that 1-2 in the closing stages go forward to meet take on Tyrone champions, Omagh St. Enda’s but Dungiven manager Eugene Kelly will have taken some heart from the fact that almost all of his current panel will still be eligible for this grade next year.
Add into the equation the fact that Dungiven were missing one of their most influential performers, Turlough Hendry, and the future remains bright for the ‘Magpies’ despite the pain of defeat.
The St. Canice’s lads will be a year wiser next season when the hurt they felt at Sunday’s final whistle is likely to be a driving factor when they start the same journey in the Derry Championship.
Dungiven’s best player on the day, Ryan McElhinney, lined out at centre half-forward and from the throw-in used his strength to force his way through the centre of the Down champions’ defence, won a free and knocked it over for an early lead.
It was a bright start but from the kick out, the first warning signs flashed as Mayobridge’s Keith Quinn climb above the black shirts, to pluck the ball from the sky in an area which would normally have been patrolled by the injured Hendry.
Quinn was instrumental as the fluid running game of Mayobridge eventually saw Caolin Gallagher, and a delicious outside of the boot effort from Quinn, cancel out another McElhinney free.
It was end to end as Eugene Kelly’s squad more than held their own, Kevin Johnston and Donal McGilligan giving Mayobridge all sorts of problems with their deep running from half-back but Marty McCloskey and Paddy Kelly were having to cope with a potent Mayobridge attack.
After a Conal Poland reply for the east coast men, Kevin Farren pulled off a superb save when Mayobridge’s Keith Quinn looked set to roll the ball into the net. Somehow, the Dungiven keeper got his body in the way to deflect Quinn’s effort wide with the Down man accidentally injured in the process.
The lengthy delay it took to remove the injured midfielder from the field did nothing to help Dungiven’s focus as in injury time Farren was left to tip a Paudie Gribben goal-bound effort over. He looked to have performed heroics again moments later only to watch the rebound be slotted into the empty net by Mayobridge’s Ronan Mynes for a three point cushion for the Down team at the interval.
Mayobridge centre-half Kevin McClorey put his side into a four point lead with the first of two points on the restart but Dungiven responded well only to spurn an early second half goal chance.
The Mayobridge management changed McElhinney’s marker but he refused to let his team wilt and responded with three points from play along with an excellent Marty Burke free kick to restore parity in what was now a fascinating encounter.
However, with the game in the balance, Mayobridge found another gear, Gallagher and O’Hare capitalising on the space afforded within the Dungiven defence to raise four unanswered white flags.
McElhinney would point another free for Dungiven and even with Mayobridge being reduced to 14 men after a second yellow for Jamie Barr, it was Down players who hit 1-02 in the final three minutes of the game.
Dungiven: Kevin Farren, Marty McCloskey, Paddy Kelly, Craig Tonan, Eunan Smith, Kevin Johnston, Donal McGilligan, Sean O’Kane, Tomas Brady, Conor Murphy (0-01), Ryan McElhinney (0-06 3f), Sean O’Neill (0-01), Steven Kerlin, Seamus Kealey, Martin Burke (0-01)
Mayobridge: Shalem Strain, Conor Gribben, Shane McNamee, Caolin Lynchehaun, Michael Annette, Kevin McClorey (0-02), Cathal Killen, Keith Quinn (0-02), Jamie Barr, Ronan Mynes (1-00), Caolin Gallagher (1-03), Conleth O’Hare (0-02), Ryan Brady, Conal Poland (0-01), Paudie Gribben (0-01)