In the 77th year of this competition, this was one of poorest deciders but that counted little to Dungiven who completed their first hat-trick of titles since the 1999-2004 era when they completed six in a row.
It was Dungiven’s fourth win over Banagher in seven final meetings, their third in their three meetings since 2002 and their 27th title in 34 finals.
But even before this game got underway at O’Neill Park there was more than a hint of controversy when it became apparent that Banagher were going to play senior county star Mark Lynch which goes against the rules of the Dr. Kerlin Cup.
For whatever reason Banagher decided to field the Derry forward, it was in blatant contravention of the clear rules that prohibit county senior footballers from taking part in District Competitions, whether Derry are still involved or not.
Fortunately the potential fall-out that such a decision would inevitably have caused had Banagher gone on to win the game was averted, essentially by Marty McCloskey’s terrific first half goal that gave Dungiven the title.
It, a couple of excellent Ryan McElhinney points, the accuracy of Mark Lynch and the energy of ‘Man-of-the-Match’ James McNicholl were about the only bright spots in what was otherwise a turgid game.
There was little to enthuse the crowd as was emphasised by an opening 20 minutes that produced one single point, an excellent effort from Lynch.
On a horrible wet night and a very soft pitch, there was little life in any of it and by half-time, the crowd had started to filter out the gates, content that the excellent win for Claudy minors over Dungiven in the Carlin/Duffy final was enough entertainment to do them.
The open 13-a-side game that this final has produced at times in recent years was denied partly by the weather, though Banagher’s decision to play Ryan Lynch as a sweeper and Dungiven’s subsequent decision to keep Kevin O’Connor in front of his own full-back line meant it was tight.
Banagher were able to welcome Sean Marty Lockhart back to the team for his first game of the season, but he lasted only 30 minutes.
Marty McCloskey’s goal was the sole memorable moment of an otherwise forgettable first half. He picked up the ball surrounded and with his back to goal but the young defender spun into space and had the strength to buy the yard that enabled him to rifle a terrific shot into the top corner of Killian McDermott’s net.
That came off the back of a Darrell O’Kane point that made it 0-01 apiece after 21 minutes and Cathal McNicholl and James Kelly added points before the interval for Dungiven that saw them lead by two.
Mark Lynch hit three of Banagher’s four first half scores, with Eunan Murphy landing the other.
Dungiven maintained a fairly comfortable position right throughout the second half, though Mark Lynch’s accuracy from dead balls kept Banagher in touch.
It was pretty much score for score, with two points still separating the sides heading into the final ten minutes when Peter O’Kane picked up his second yellow card for an innocuous looking challenge.
Ryan McElhinney came off the bench for Emmett McKeever’s side to kick a couple of great scores that helped Dungiven go 1-11 to 0-09 clear heading into the last five minutes.
But Mark Lynch (free) and Padhraic Murphy pointed before Dungiven ‘keeper Sean McNicholl spilled Lynch’s dropping shot and Shane Farren scrambled it over the line to reduce the gap to a single point.
However, the St. Mary’s side had no time to find an equaliser and so Dungiven captain James McNicholl picked up the Dr. Kerlin Cup and the man-of-the-match award to boot.
Dungiven scorers: Darrell O’Kane (0-05,3f), Ryan McElhinney (0-02) Donal McGilligan, 0-02, 0-01f); Marty McCloskey 1-00, Cathal McNicholl (0-01), James Kelly (0-01),
Banagher scorers were Mark Lynch (0-07, 6f), Shane Farren (1-00), Padhraic Murphy (0-02) and Eunan Murphy 0-01
Dungiven: Sean McNicholl; Davy McLaughlin, Gavin McLaughlin, Marty McCloskey; James McNicholl, Sean O’Kane, Kevin O’Connor; Sean O’Neill, Cathal McNicholl, Donal McGilligan; James Kelly, Cathal McKeever, Darrell O’Kane. (Subs) Kevin Boyle for S O’Kane (35 mins); Ryan McElhinney for S O’Neill (42 mins); Stephen McGuigan for K O’Connor (52 mins); Fergal McGuigan for J Kelly (57 mins)
Banagher: Killian McDermott; Michéal Anderson, Sean Martin Lockhart, Brian Murphy; John Lynch, Paul Cartin, Gary Lynch;
Padhraic Murphy, Peter O’Kane, Shane Farren; Eunan Murphy, Mark Lynch, Ryan Lynch. (Subs) Oisin McCloskey for Sean Marty Lockhart (HT); Brian O’Kane for Gary Lynch (50 mins)
Referee: Gregory McWilliams (Ballinascreen)