It was Dungiven’s 33rd Dr. Kerlin Cup Final final and, for the second successive year, they came out on top against neighbours Foreglen to claim their 26th title.
Last year Darrell O’Kane wrote the script as he scored a last minute goal against his former colleagues to win the game and the ‘Man of the Match’ award. On Sunday history repeated itself with O’Kane again winning the player accolade with 0-07 but James McNicholl and Cathal McKeever ran him close.
However an incident early in the game threatened to tip the balance in Foreglen’s favour. It’s hard to remember Paul Murphy ever having been sent off in his life, but he couldn’t have picked a worse stage to do it. Ten minutes in, he and Shane Duffy wrestled off the ball and Duffy ended up on the floor with referee JJ Cleary brandishing a red card to Murphy, Duffy picking up a yellow.
With Gavin and Davy McLaughlin both already doubtful for Dungiven’s Championship opener with Banagher next weekend, the last thing they needed was to lose a player of Murphy’s experience.In terms of this hour’s football, it looked that Murphy’s red card would make a game of it. The first ten minutes had suggested Dungiven had learnt the lessons of last year as they looked more composed despite a team that contained two lines of experience and two lines of youth but was still too strong for Foreglen.
To play for 25 minutes against 12 men and only score one point in that period underlined where their problems lay. They couldn’t get Kevin O’Connor into the game. Any problems they did cause Dungiven came from Niall McFeely, but for all his link work, he just wasn’t assisted by a team-mate who gave them an end product.
That end product did come at the other end, and it was provided by the man who so often wore the green and gold. Over the course of the 60 minutes, Foreglen tried five different men on O’Kane but the quality he possesses is making him very difficult to mark at senior level, never mind by an intermediate team.
It was a two-man show though. O’Kane hit seven points but Cathal McKeever’s performance was every bit as impressive. Despite walking a fine line after an early yellow card, he controlled the centre of the park.
Dungiven’s forwards all split men on Foreglen’s kickouts, meaning Gary Magee had little option but to drive it down the middle. When he was forced to do so, Dungiven invariably won the ball.
Had it not been for Magee, the margin of victory would have been greater. His first half save from Liam Hinphey is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best save that will be made in Derry this year. Hinphey, through one-on-one, gave him the eyes. Magee went to his left, Hinphey held on a second and hit it to the other side. Magee defied physics to get his hand back across and flick the ball away for a 45’.
That came after 17 minutes, when it was still a contest. Dungiven led by 0-03 to 0-01 and that two-point gap was halved in the next attack as Kevin O’Connor flashed one over from close range.
The game was a slow-burner, just as last year’s final had been. O’Kane and Mark Craig raised white flags to put three in it before, four minutes from half-time, Niall McFeely was pulled down by Kevin Farren as he went to tap the ball into an empty net.
Ciaran McFeely stepped up to the take the penalty but Farren, who made his move early, got down superbly to his left to stop the firmly struck effort.
Dungiven came straight down the field and worked the ball to O’Kane. He went around Gary Magee but the Foreglen ‘keeper did exactly what Farren had just done and pulled him down to deny him a goal. Cathal Grieve stepped up but his effort was less powerful than McFeely’s, at a nicer height than McFeely’s, and ended up pawed away by the ‘keeper.
However, Dungiven kept coming forward and good work from Stephen Kerlin, who had an impressive first half, set up Ryan McElhinney for an excellent score. James McNicholl then forced a turnover 40 yards from goal and, just as he and Ryan McFeely finished some off-the-ball re-acquaintance, O’Kane put Dungiven 0-07 to 0-02 ahead.
In the 20 minutes Eugene Kelly’s men played with just 12 men on the pitch, Dungiven had outscored their local rivals by five points to one.
There were goal chances for Damien O’Connor’s side in the second half. To raise one green flag might have given the whole evening, the whole occasion a lift.
Five minutes into the second half, Foreglen’s chances of a comeback were given a major dent by the dismissal of Shane Duffy. Booked for his part in the incident which had seen Murphy sent off, he could have had no complaints about his second booking for a high tackle on O’Kane. However, it took the intervention of the Dungiven players to remind JJ Cleary that Duffy had already been booked, and the red card was eventually shown.
There was an odd positive to be taken from the game for Foreglen, most notably the return of James Brolly as a second half substitute. He is, at the very least, an incredibly valuable sub for them to have as they prepare for a championship meeting with old rivals Claudy on Saturday week.
Two more points from O’Kane extended the Dungiven lead to eight with 14 minutes to play, by which stage the crowd had gone very quiet. Five minutes later, they pretty much all went home. A superb move the length of the field put Eoighin Farren in behind and the experienced substitute finished brilliantly into the top corner.
It had long since ceased to be a contest, but the 10th minute of the contest and Paul Murphy’s red card might be what has the biggest impact.
Dungiven scorers: Darrell O’Kane (0-07, 2f),Eoighin Farren 1-00, Mark Craig, Stephen Kerlin, Ryan McElhinney, James Kelly, Paul Murphy and Cathal Grieve (0-01each)
Foreglen scorers: Kevin O’Connor (0-03, 1f), Ciaran McFeely 0-01f and Ryan McFeely 0-01 each
Dungiven: Kevin Farren; Paddy Kelly, Kevin Johnston, James McNicholl; Mark Craig, Liam Hinphey, Cathal McKeever; Stephen Kerlin, Ryan McElhinney, James Kelly; Darrell O’Kane, Paul Murphy, Cathal Grieve. (Subs) Kevin Hinphey (0-01) for S Kerlin (43 mins), Eoighin Farren for J Kelly (44 mins), Sean O’Neill for C Grieve (51 mins), Stephen McGuigan for C McKeever (54 mins), Sean Lynch for M Craig (55 mins)
Foreglen: Gary Magee; Ruairi Duffy, Shane Duffy, Cathal O’Hara; Ryan McFeely, Darren O’Kane, John Duffy; Niall McFeely, Mark McCormick, Kevin O’Neill; Nigel Bradley, Kevin O’Connor, Ciaran McFeely. (Subs) Marty Farrell for N Bradley (33mins), James Brolly for M McCormick (45mins); Eunan McFeely for N McFeely (57mins)
Referee: JJ Cleary (Castledawson)