The entertainment value for the fans who came to Celtic Park last Saturday afternoon was certainly not high, but then the majority of them were not there to be entertained, just to hope that the team they supported would win this Championship derby!
SEAmus Mullan was at Celtic Park
Photographs: Glenn McIntyre
The fear of defeat was a powerful motivating factor for both teams, Banagher trying to end a barren championship run against Dungiven that stretched back to when Sean McGrellis scored the winning goal in the 80s, Dungiven striving to build on a most promising league campaign and not wishing to be derailed by their close neighbours.
And all those factors combined to produce a closely contested game that was very much in doubt until referee Shane Mullan blew the final whistle.
The old football cliché about midfield possession and winning games was stood on its head in this game, Banagher winning that sector hands down. Or more accurately hands up, with P.J. McCloskey and Peter O’Kane masters of the aerial duels.
The former made eight clean catches on kick-outs, the latter garnering midfield possession on six occasions, others popping up in this sector on five occasions to scavenge the ball. Truthfully Dungiven were wiped out at midfield, their midfield pair winning just three times on kick-outs, with others getting loose ball on seven occasions.
And yet Banagher could not turn a near monopoly of ball into scores, especially in the first half when backed by a very strong wind.
Indeed had Dungiven taken their goal chances the half time score. 0-05 to 0-04 for Banagher, would have had a different complexion. Fergal McGuigan was one-on-one with the keeper after 50 seconds, coming in on the angle on the left, but hit the side-netting.
On 13 minutes Banagher keeper Darrell McDermott made a point-blank save from Dungiven’s outstanding defender Mark Craig at the expense of a ‘45’ that Cathal Grieve pointed into the wind for 0-03 to 0-02.
Three minutes later Sean O’Neill put Cathal Grieve one-on-one with keeper McDermott, the Dungiven player’s shot for goal kept out with a foot block. The referee awarded a penalty but Grieve fired the ball over the bar for 0-03 each.
The second half was a war of attrition, Hinphey and Craig outstanding in the Dungiven defence, Conor Lynch and Micheal Anderson similarly effective for Banagher who were very dependent on Mark Lynch’s free taking.
Banagher led 0-07 to 0-04 eight minutes into the second half but Dungiven rallied, lifted by two Darrell O’Kane pointed frees inside a minute and an outrageous point by Grieve from the right wing to lead 0-08 to 0-07 midway through the half.
Mark Lynch pointed his fifth point for 0-08 each in the 44th minute and that’s the way it stayed until Fergal McGuigan grabbed the headlines with points in the 58th and 60th minutes, Mark Lynch’s sixth free in the 62nd minute and P.J. McCloskey second yellow card a minute later the last action of the game.
Dungiven manager Eugene Kelly admitted that his side had made life very difficult for themselves.
“We struggled at midfield and to win a game with perhaps only 20% possession at midfield is not bad,” said Kelly afterwards.
“But I was still happy enough going in at half time only one down with that wind against us. I was scared that we would go out in the second half and try and win the game in the first few minutes. But, as it turned out, they got the first two scores. Then we got four and I thought that if we got another we would kick on.
“Fergal McGuigan scored four points from play and won one of the frees that Darrell scored, and had a couple of goal chances. He could have had an outstanding performance had he taken them all. But he was still our most effective forward.”
The Dungiven manager acknowledged Banagher’s midfield dominance.
“There are some good midfield combinations in Derry but you’ll not come up against one that gave as good a performance as the Banagher pair,” he added.
“We were without Paul Murphy who would have given us experience at midfield when we needed it. Hopefully the next day we go out we’ll getter a fairer share of the ball but there were plus points. I thought our defence was excellent. They scored just three points from play, one from long range from P.J. McCloskey. If you’re defence is holding the opposition to two or three points you’re not far away.”
Dungiven scorers: Fergal McGuigan 0-04, Cathal Grieve 0-04, 0-01 ‘45’, 0-01 pen, 0-01 free, Darrell O’Kane 0-02 frees
Banagher scorers: Mark Lynch 0-06 frees, Shane Farren, Eunan Murphy and P.J. McCloskey 0-01 each
Dungiven: Kevin Farren; Paddy Kelly, Gavan McLaughlin, Kevin Johnston; Liam Og Hinphey, Mark Craig, James McNicholl; Aaron McCloskey, Cathal McKeever; Cathal Grieve, Kevin Hinphey, Ryan McElhinney; Fergal McGuigan, Darrell O’Kane, Sean O’Neill. (Subs) Sean Murray for S O’Neill, 40 mins; James Kelly for R McElhinney, 54 mins.
Banagher: Darrell McDermott; Gary Lynch; Ruairi McCloskey, Kevin Murphy; Micheal Anderson, Oisin McCloskey, Conor Lynch; P.J. McCloskey, Peter O’Kane; Shane Farren, Padhraic Murphy, Chris Guy; Kevin O’Neill, Mark Lynch, Eunan Murphy. (Subs) Gavan O’Neill for C Guy 44 mins; Ryan Lynch for S Farren 57 mins
Referee: Shane Mullan (Ballinderry)