Ulster Junior Championship Club final
Amid the heartbreak of an Ulster Final defeat, there was also pride at a season which will be remembered for many years by everyone at Limavady Wolfhounds.
Manager Dominic Woods admits he didn’t even know some of the players when he took over the reins at the start of the season but three trophies, one huge disappointment and countless battles has a way of binding men. It was defeat in the 2017 Derry Junior final which proved the catalyst for their superb 2018 and behind the tears and frustrations of Saturday night, there was a steely determination that the loss to Red Hugh’s could provide a similar springboard for the ‘Hounds’ return to Intermediate football.
“It’s hard to get young boys’ heads up after losing Ulster finals, it’s not too often you get to them but these guys have achieved something special this year,” explained Woods, “What they have done for the town of Limavady, they have put Limavady back on the GAA map.
“We were a team at the start of the year that a lot of other clubs, local clubs around us, would have looked down at us, as if we were only a junior team and things like that, but they are not looking at us like that any more. They have all given us credit for what we have achieved and it’s up to us to build on this now.”
Drumsurn native Woods said the experiences of a season that brought the Division Three title, promotion to Intermediate football, the Derry Junior Championship crown and the Neal Carlin Cup can only help the young Limavady players going forward.
“I said to the boys in the changing rooms, we have won matches all year. We have laughed together, won together and tonight we lost together but there is a great future for this young team. There are plenty of positives. Even this defeat is not a negative. We have so many positives coming out of this year.
“There is a great future for this group of young players. Unfortunately we are losing Callum (Brown) but there are still young players coming through from minors. Maybe some of the older boys might hang their boots up, I don’t know. We had a good bench there as well.
“The future is good for Limavady. This time last year we were just talking about coming on board with the Wolfhounds and had someone said to me then that we would be in an Ulster final at this stage, well I wouldn’t have liked to lose it, but I would have been very glad to get to it knowing we had won the county title.
“The biggest aim we had this year was getting into Intermediate football and we achieved that.”
On the match itself, Woods said the defining moment was obvious to everyone inside Celtic Park on Saturday night.
“There was not a lot between the two sides during the game. We went four points up and we were looking good at that stage. I’m not going to criticise referees but it was the decision that went against us, that turned the game in their favour.
“They got a real boost from Ricky’s (Richard King) sending off, a new lease of life. They lifted it up a gear and we struggled to cope with that with the 14 men but I can’t take it away from Red Hugh’s either. They were a good side and maybe just deserved it on the night.
“We missed too many scores. We could have had the game dead and buried but they showed great heart and determination and real experience there at the end to see the game out.
“I was actually confused as to what Ricky’s first yellow was given for. I asked the linesman and he said it was for a pull back but Ricky said the referee had said he said something which he claimed he hadn’t, so I don’t know what the first yellow card was for.
“The second, yes, was a bit dubious. Look, anyone walking away from Celtic Park will know the red card was the defining moment. It was the turning point in the match, everyone would say that.
“Who knows what would have happened had Ricky stayed on? We were four points up and in control but look that’s how football is sometimes. Ricky has given us a great season and he was unfortunate to be sent off.”
King’s harsh dismissal came only minutes after Cormac Quigley’s goal had put Limavady into the driving seat at four points up but the Wolfhounds should probably have been even further ahead after a first half in which they missed too many chances.
“We should have been further ahead at half-time,” agreed Woods, “We were two up a minute into injury time at the end of the half, we had a free kick out on the 13m line and put it wide.
“They went down the field and scored and it was only one but look, we were still in the lead at half-time. We were still in control and it just wasn’t to be on the night.
“I’m absolutely gutted, more so for the boys than anything. They have had an absolutely fantastic year, it is just a pity it couldn’t have kept going. They gave it their all and I couldn’t ask for anymore from the players. There had to be a loser tonight and unfortunately, we were the loser.”
The Limavady manager had a special word of praise for the Wolfhounds’ support who have backed his team superbly throughout the season
“The support we have had is unbelievable. We came out at the start of the year with maybe a couple of dozen in Na Cunna Park for our first league game and you saw that there tonight, we had maybe a 1,500 or more there.
“This team has brought a great buzz back to Limavady. There are yellow and blue flags flying and they will fly with pride. All the other clubs around the town, the rugby club, the soccer club, the junior football team, they have all been wishing us the best so, look, thank God Limavady is back on the GAA map.
“There is a fantastic continuity in this team. Limavady people are very proud people and they deserve a bit of success . They have come out in their numbers. We have done them proud but that support has done us proud as well.
“We will live with those memories. I have told the boys we have some great memories to take from this year. I didn’t know half of those young boys when I came on board but now we are like family, a band of brothers and we will continue to be for many a year.”