Foreglen see off Claudy to claim Derry Intermediate Championship title

Foreglen players and supporters celebrate their Intermediate Championship victory in Celtic Park.
Foreglen players and supporters celebrate their Intermediate Championship victory in Celtic Park.

McFeely Group Intermediate Football Championship Final

Foreglen 0-15, Claudy 0-09

The expected fireworks didn't materialise until Barry Cassidy's final whistle was the cue for an outpouring of emotion that illustrated everything about what football means to the community of Foreglen.

The O'Brien's are the Intermediate champions for the first time since 2013 after a richly deserved six point victory over great rivals, Claudy in a final that never lived up to it's pre-match billing.

Not that it will matter to Damian O'Connor or his players who proved there is no substitute championship experience after a superb display of controlled football in a second in which the Mitchel's never got going.

That was largely due to Foreglen's control and a managerial masterstroke at half-time which saw Sean O'Connor dropped back to pick up Claudy's Oran Armstrong who was causing the O'Brien's plenty of problems. The move kick-started Foreglen for a second half in which they were enjoying the benefits of the breeze and it freed up Eoghan Duffy and Oisin Duffy who excelled after the interval.

And when the celebrations have died down, (or probably when they are still raging back in the clubhouse!) there'll be a pint or two for Liam O'Hara whose injury time point salvaged a replay against Faughanvale in an opening tie that the O'Brien's looked to have lost.

The glory always comes in the final but the O'Brien's championship run was forged in that Celtic Park battle six weeks previously when they lost Eoghan Duffy to a black card and Ruairi Duffy to a red yet still refused to be beaten.

They came into this one as underdogs as well as an excellent Claudy team who were going for a league and championship double but you always have the sense Foreglen relish upsetting the odds.

Foreglen were available at 15/8 in some places, remarkable odds for a team with their pedigree and against over whom they always seem to hold the upper hand.

The biggest pre-match surprise was Claudy's decision to put Callum McElhinney in at full-back, marking Foreglen dangerman Kevin O'Connor, while the loss of Shane McGahon to injury also meant Conal White came into midfield.

The Mitchel's game-plan was a counter-attacking one, dropping deep without the ball and swamping the centre in a bid to negate the strong running of Oisin Duffy through the middle.

Foreglen's big doubt was over the fitness of Ciaran McFeely and his failure to recover from a hand injury meant he had to be content with a place on the bench in a familiar looking Foreglen 15. However McFeely's second half introduction gave the O'Brien's a real boost with the former Derry minor's superb cameo helping Foreglen see out the game with a real level of comfort.

The opening half was tit-for-tat, Claudy enjoying more of the possession but Foreglen very efficient with every ball they had.

Aaron Donaghy, Aaron Kerrigan (free) and Marty Donaghy all scored either side of a Kevin O'Connor free and despite their dominance claudy were never able to put any distance between themselves and foreglen, especially with Kevin O'Connor weighing in with his usual contribution.

Oran Armstrong was the Claudy danger but for all the Mitchel's pace, the sides were level at 0-6 a-piece five minutes from half-time. Two scores from Armstrong in between a fine effort from John Duffy sent the Mitchel's in 0-8 to 0-7 ahead but Foreglen never looked fazed.

And with good reason. The second 30 minutes would yield only one more Claudy point. The excellent Mark McCormick had Foreglen level inside two minutes of the restart and the O'Brien's never looked back.

They had one big scare when Aaron Donaghy's dropping shot invited Conal White to attack it at the back post, his fisted effort looking goalbound until john Duffy intercepted on the line. Otherwise though, they were cruising.

Eoghan Duffy started to make inroads to level after Armstrong has grabbed Claudy's solitary second half point on 39 minutes, levelling once more before a Kevin O'Connor free sent the O'Brien's into a lead they would never lose.

From there it was only the margin of victory that was in doubt Kevin O'Connor, Liam O'Hara, Eoghan Duffy again, and two more Mark McCormick frees sealing a victory that proves once again, you just can't write Foreglen off!

Claudy scorers: Aaron Donaghy (0-1), Aaron Kerrigan (0-2, 1f), Marty Donaghy (0-1), Oran Armstrong (0-5, 3f),

Foreglen scorers: Kevin O'Connor (0-6, 3f), Cahir O'Connor (0-1), Mark McCormick (0-4, 4f), John Duffy (0-1), Eoghan Duffy (0-2), Liam O'Hara (0-1)

Claudy: Kieran Reilly, Jamie Brown, Callum McElhinney, Fionan Smyth; Blaine Carlin, Conor Johnston, Aaron Donaghy; Eoin McGahon, Conal White; Paddy Hargan, Oran Armstrong, Shea Kerrigan; Stephen Farren, Marty Donaghy, Aaron Kerrigan.

(Subs) Jamie Donaghy for S Kerrigan, 38mins; Conor Gormley for S Farren, 54mins;

Yellow Cards: O Armstrong, 7mins; S Farren, 14mins; P Hargan, 33mins; C White, 35mins; C Johnston, 39mins; M Donaghy, 43mins;

Foreglen: Tiarnan Burke; John Duffy, Cathal O'Hara, Shane Duffy; Pauric Morahanm Oisin Duffy, James O'Kane; Liam O'Hara, Mark McCormick; Eoghan Duffy, Kevin Dunne, Sean O'Connor; Cahir O'Connor, Kevin O'connor, Caolan O'Connor.

(Subs) Ciaran McFeely for J Duffy, 39mins; Eunan McFeely for K Dunne, 50mins; Gavin McCormick for Caolan O'Connor, 52mins; Jonathan O'Dwyer for P Morahan, 59mins; Ruairi Duffy for J O'Kane, 59mins;

Yellow Cards: M McCormick, 32mins; G McCormick, 56mins;

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Bellaghy)