Small & Hyland Derry Intermediate Football Championship Final
Newbridge 1-09, Faughanvale 1-04
Newbridge added the Small & Hyland Intermediate Football Championship title to their Division Two title to cap a superb season for Paddy Bradley's team who defeated 14-man Faughanvale with something to spare on Saturday.
Bradley's side went into the season with a weight of expectation season but have borne those hopes admirably with the 'double' fitting reward for a team that has fully justified their favourites tag in the league and championship.
With a considerable breeze blowing down the Celtic Park pitch from the Brandywell end, Fauaghanvale's hopes of an upsetting the odds were all but ended by a second booking for Shaun Cassidy three minutes before half-time which left the underdogs with far too much to do.
With the wind behind them in the first half, 'Vale had managed to stay with Bradley's team for most of the opening half but the dismissal of Cassidy hit their chances which were then extinguished by a goal from Kevin Sweeney seconds before the interval.
Three points up at the break, the 'Bridge had far too much experience to allow 'Vale any hope of a second half foothold and won the game with something to spare.
'Vale, with that considerable breeze at their backs would have been hoping for a quick start and they almost got it from the throw in when a long ball almost broke kindly for Eunan Murray to go clear.
It was scrambled away by Newbridge and instead of the St Mary's seizing the initiative, it was the Division Two champions who took control.
Only 45 seconds had elapsed when Paddy McGuigan and Danny Mulholland combined to set up Conor McGrogan for the game's opening score.
A one point lead became two 60 seconds later as Michael Bateson tapped over and when Ciaran Brooks made it three before three minutes had passed, Vale looked to be in some bother.
Michael McLaughlin's men were competing well around the middle third but the ball wasn't going in quick enough with Newbridge employing Dessie McColgan, Sean Patrick McCann and McGrogan as sweeper on a rotational basis and seldom was one not in a position to pisk off any potential threat even before the chance had opened.
That security was giving others the license to make deeps runs forward which the 'Vale were struggling to pick up but Eunan Murray was the one 'Vale player who looked capable of hurting the Bradley's team and he set about bringing the St. Mary's back into the match.
First, after being fouled out near the right touch line, Murray sent over a beautiful, fourth minute free before bettering it seconds later from an even more acute angle.
With the deficit back to one point, Michael McLaughlin then sent a long ball in which Conor O'Hara did superbly to win over two 'Bridge backs before setting up Paddy O'Kane for the equalising score.
It seemed an innocuous foul by Cassidy in the 19th minute but too much chat earned the 'Vale man a booking which would go on to have a major impact on the game.
Newbridge had been kept scoreless for 17 first half minutes against the breeze by the time Eamon Burke edged them 0-4 to 0-3 in front again with Vale's Conor McGuinness then picking up a yellow for another off the ball incident.
Cassidy did superbly to bring his team level on 23 minutes but just four minutes later, that first booking came back to haunt the 'Vale man.
A tangle with Newbridge's Nathan Rocks in front of the Celtic Park dug-outs ended with Cassidy on the ground and players surrounding referee Barry Cassidy with 'Bridge claiming Rocks had been tripped by Cassidy and Vale' accusing the Rocks of striking out. When the dust settled on the melee, it was yellow cards for both Rocks and Cassidy, the latter's being his second and 'Vale were down to 14 with the prospect of facing the wind in the second period.
That was bad enough but a difficult situation became almost impossible when Sweeney scored a goal that gave Bradley's team a 1-04 to 0-4 half-time lead. Referee Barry Cassidy had the whistle in his mouth when Eamon Burke did superbly to win ball and picked out Sweeney on one of those deep runs. The corner forward still had plenty to do but produced a superb finish across the keeper that his manager would have been proud to call his own!
The dismissal meant 'Vale had to reshuffle with O'Hara left to forage a lone second half role inside with runners expected to get up and support.
This risk was any turnover left the 'Vale exposed and Newbridge had the men to punish them.
The lead also meant the champions could afford to keep a spare man back as well with no pressure to over commit in a game they had total control over.
Faughanvale actually started the second half the stronger but their predicament was illustrated by the fact that Eamon Burke was first man on the second half scoreboard despite 'Vale dominating possession.
Newbridge were content to allow Fauaghanvale the ball in areas in which they couldn't hurt them but always had a spare man when Vale' threatened to go for a goal which could breath life into their challenge.
Danny Mulholland was lucky to escape with only a yellow for a late challenge on Joe Gray which could have seen 14-a-side but there only looked one winner from a long way out.
Each 'Vale attack brought an isolated forward and frustration for Faughanvale. Newbridge only had to manage the game and they did that with only minor difficulty.
A Mulholland free, Michael Bateson and Kevin Sweeney's deflected point had the 'Bridge 1-09 to 0-4 up and cruising before Eoin McElhinney's lovely high finish into the net on 57 minutes gave 'Vale their first and only score of the second half.
It was academic. Newbridge had managed only five second half points but they knew they had no need charge forward wrecklessly. Instead the managed the game in a manner reminiscent of how they have managed their season this year to be crowned deserving Intermediate champions.
Faughanvale: Darryl Moore; Conor McGuinness, Michael Sweeney, Gordon Fahey; Jordan Curran, Eoin McElhinney (1-0), Aaron Cassidy; Shaun Cassidy (0-1), Ryan King; Stevie King, Joe Gray, Michael McLaughlin; Eunan Murray (0-2, 2f), Conor O'Hara, Paddy O'Kane (0-1).
(Subs) Kevin Martin for C O'Hara, 42mins; Paudie McGrogan for G Burke, 45mins; Oisin Quinn for M McLaughlin, 51mins
Newbridge: Michael O'Neill; Caolan McGrogan, Conor McGrogan (0-1), Deccy McKeever; Gerard Burke, Nathan Rocks, Ciaran Brooks (0-1); Michael Bateson (0-1), Conor Doherty (0-1); Paddy McGuigan, Danny Mulholland (0-1, 1f), Sean Patrick McCann; Kevin Sweeney (1-1), Eamon Burke (0-2), DessieMcColgan.
(Subs) Odhan McGlone for S.P. McCann, 22mins; James Moore for P O'Kane, 46mins; PJ O'Neill for M Bateson (Blood Sub) 49mins (rev 50mins); Mark McGrogan for D Muldolland, 51mins; Judeg Diamond for O McGlone, 57mins; Ryan McElhone for K Sweeney, 57mins; PJ O'Neill for J Diamond (inj), 59mins;
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Bellaghy)