Premier Electrics Junior Football Championship
Limavady Wolfhounds 1-09
St. Colm’s, Drum 0-10
It’s ‘first blood’ Limavady after Sheagh McLaughlin’s injury time goal ensured favourites Drum must take the scenic route if they are to claim a League and Championship double this season.
Twelve months ago, Drum faced into a remarkably similar scenario. A first round fixture between the two best teams in Junior football. Last year that was Drum and Faughanvale and it will still hurt that Joe Gray’s men got the better of them twice.
That pain has driven some superb displays from the Gortnahey men this year and they fully deserved the Division Three title. The one blot on that league copybook - Limavady, as the only team to defeat Jason Hazlett’s men.
So this was more than just a first round meeting. Many expect these two will meet again in the final (although Glack, Ogra Colmcille and Magilligan may disagree with that) and this was as huge a shot in the arm for the Wolfhounds as it was a psychological blow for St. Colm’s.
In truth there was nothing between the sides but Drum will have regrets, notably that it took them 20 minutes to get going in the first half when they had the strong breeze at their backs.
Drum’s success is built on a water-tight defence but they are often guilty of being too cautious. Their great strength is to invite teams onto them, crowd the opposition out and then hit the space the opposition has left at pace. They are excellent at it.
Except on Sunday when facing into the elements Limavady sat in and crowded their own ‘45 and for long periods Drum seemed unsure how to approach it.
Twenty minutes in, they led 0-02 to 0-01 despite boasting a mountain of possession. That they hit a further six points in the final 10 minutes to lead 0-08 to 0-01 at the break showed what they were capable of but also how they had under-performed.
When Drum finally started to drive forward and commit men at the young Limavady team, the Wolfhounds lost their way for a period and were relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
Yet it says everything about Limavady that, facing such a deficit and up against a team that are masters of protecting a lead, they managed to turn the game around.
Drum’s final score of the game came in the 43rd minute from the excellent Niall Ferris. At that stage, they were 0-10 to 0-04 up and Limavady weren’t making much headway. The Wolfhounds were guilty of the same doubt that had plagued Drum’s first half.
With every St. Colm’s player within 50m of their own posts, Limavady retained four and five players back at times. That allowed Drum to confidently play the ball laterally inside their own 45 and run down the clock as well as easing pressure on the Drum kick-out.
It was a ploy that looked like working until necessity forced the Wolfhounds cut lose and go for it. That final 17 minutes saw Limavady hit 1-04 without reply. And for all the tactics, the formations, the mind-games and the psychology of it, the winning goal had a lovely nostalgic feel to it. It was old school.
Last few seconds, Limavady are desperate to get something when they hoist a criminally under used ball toward tall full forward, Cormac Quigley, on the edge of the square.
Pandemonium breaks out as the two and three players - both defensive and offensive - take a stab at it before it lands perfectly at the feet of McLaughlin who manages to poke the ball through the crowd and into the Drum net.
The celebrations belonged in a Championship final but they highlighted how big a victory this was for Limavady. Following the league victory, this could sow a few more seeds of doubt in Drum heads against a team that has improved as the season has developed.
The truth is there was nothing in it. The sides were evenly matched all over the field. Indeed it was a cruel irony that Drum’s best player, Niall Ferris, missed an easy point seconds before the Limavady goal. Any score for Drum at that stage may have broken Limavady resolve but his miss only fuelled the Limavady belief.
That belief is growing but no one should be too quick to write off Drum yet. They have bounced back before and can play better than they did on Sunday. We will have to wait and see if Limavady can match that should they meet again.
Drum: Cahair O’Kane, Liam Miller, Alex Moore, Seamus O’Kane, Niall Ferris (0-2), Shaun McGlade, Damian Brolly, Conor O’Kane, James McCartney, Kevin O’Reilly, Donal Brolly (0-1), Thomas McCloskey, Gabriel Farren, Rory O’Reilly (0-2, 1f), Conor O’Reilly (0-5, 1f). (Subs) Ryan O’Kane for D Brolly, 53mins, Shane Miller for A Moore, 56mins.
Limavady: Dean McInnes, Jamie McLaughlin, Ciaran McGlinchey (0-1), Davitt McIvor, Eoghan Rogers, Conor Boyd, Liam O’Kane, Jack Deery, Sheagh McLaughlin (1-0), Mark McGroarty, Sean Forrest (0-3, 2f), Ruairi Hasson (0-1, 1f), Eoin Kelly (0-3, 3f), Cormac Quigley (0-1), Ruairi O’Kane. Subs: Richard King for M McGroarty, 41mins; John Carney for R O’Kane, 57mins.
Referee: Dan Mullan (Glenullin)