Faughanvale player manager Joe Gray says his side can take confidence from Sunday’s superb victory over Brackaville as they look forward to an Ulster Club Championship semi-final against Cavan’s Templeport on Sunday, Novemeber 15th.
The St. Mary’s became the first Derry team to win a junior match at provincial level since 2008 following Sunday’s excellent 1-10 to 1-09 victory in Healy Park against a team many had tipped to go on and win the competition.
It was Gray’s first half goal scored via a deflection through a crowd of players with the ‘Vale trailing 0-6 to 0-4 that proved the game’s crucial score, the Derry champions eventually going in level at 1-4 to 0-7 before producing a fantastic finale.
Kevin Martin was superb with six points but all over the pitch the ‘Vale players raised their game and Gray was delighted with the application of his side.
“I’m an extremely happy man, it was a real battling performance from the players and they deserved the result,” explained the ‘Vale player manager.
“There was pressure put on us by a big, physically strong Brackaville team who had some long periods when they were on top in the game. They were well drilled and dangerous, especially in the first half but the boys dug in.
“There were one or two moments when they went ahead but we never let them get too far out of sight and crucially we always found a response.”
Gray had opened the scoring in the game but ‘Vale were second best for the majority of the opening half and Joe Raffertry soon had the Tyrone champions level with Ciaran Gervin then putting Brackaville in front.
A Che O’Donnell free and a point from Dara McGuinness extended the lead to 0-4 to 0-1 but Eunan Murray’s well worked score settled the Faughanvale nerves a little.
Rafferty added a superb fifth point for Brackaville but Gray, who was superb throughout, replied for ‘Vale from a free to ensure they stayed in touch. Gervin’s second point was cancelled out by a Kevin Martin free for 0-6 to 0-4 before gray struck. It may have been slightly fortunate with the deflection but the Gray’s low finish knocked Brackaville’s momentum. Che O’Donnell’s free tied the game at 1-04 to 0-07 for half-time but the goal marked a change in approach from ‘Vale as Gray admitted.
“To be honest I never thought much about the goal, it was lucky enough but I didn’t care,” added Gray, “I think it took a deflection but it doesn’t matter as long as it hits the back of the net because it brought us back into the game at that stage and was a big lift.
“They had the better of the first half while we probably shaded the second half. We didn’t start particularly well but what was important was that we managed those periods well when Brackaville were on top and despite being second best for a lot of the first half we went in level which was a big boost for the boys.
“At half-time we talked about how we hadn’t been at our best but second half we started winning breaking ball and getting some decent ball in.
“We never panicked. There were a couple of moments, especially in the first half when things might have gone the wrong way and Brackaville could have opened up a bigger lead but it shows the characters of our players that they kept their composure and found the response we needed. I have said it before, they are an honest bunch of players and will run all day but we can take confidence from this result.
“Junior football in Tyrone is very strong and Brackaville are a very good team so to go to their own back yard and get a result like that is testament to everyone at the club.
The second half started with Martin Gervin edging Brackaville back in front but Kevin Martin levelled the match soon after before captain Steven King edged ‘Vale back in front at 1-6 to 0-8.
Just when it looked like the Derry champions were getting on top, Brackaville’s Paddy Gervin found the net with a low finish to put his side two up and Vale were facing a real character test, especially when Rafferty extended the lead to 1-9 to 1-06. They passed with flying colours as the Tyrone side failed to trouble the scoreboard for the remainder of the match.
Three successive points from Martin brought Faughanvale level before the corner-forward scored again to put Faughanvale in front with the ‘Vale seeing the game out to record a famous victory that sets up a last four showdown with the Cavan champions.
“To be honest, we haven’t given much thought to the semi-final yet,” added the Faughanvale player-manager, “We are still enjoying Sunday’s win. As the week goes on, we will start looking at it and get the boys back in again but it should be another great occasion for the club.”