Banagher crowned Derry's first Ulster Intermediate Club hurling champions after defeating Lisbellaw
Ulster Intermediate Hurling Coub Chasmpionship final
Banagher 2-11, Lebellaw 0-12
Banagher are the Ulster Intermediate Hurling champions are becoming the first Derry club in history to claim the title thanks to a superb second half display against Fermanagh champions, Lisbellaw in Healy Park on Saturday.
Brian Og McGilligan's superb goal two minutes before the break proved the defining moment of a game in which Banagher's defensive intensity strangled the life out of a lively and talented Fermanagh outfit. St. Mary's were far from their best in the opening 30 odd minutes, racking up eight wides and trailing by three before McGIlligan's brilliant intervention.
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That goal tied the game and after the break, Banagher's defensive brilliance was matched further up the field as St. Mary's began to find their range with Ciaran Lynch, who was superb throughout, hitting a second excellent goa to cap a fantastic individual display.
But he wasn't alone. The strength of this Banagher team is not in the individual, it is in the group and never was that more evident than every time Lisbellaw attacked. All over the pitch the St Mary's tackling was intense, battling for every loose ball as if it was the trophy itself they were wrestling from their Fermanagh opponents.
In the end they won with something to spare with the suspended Oisin McCloskey playing a role in the changing room before the game and again at half-time as St Mary's created their own bit of Derry hurling history and now have an All Ireland club series to look forward to.
With Oisin's appeal against a semi-final red card proving unsuccessful, Shane Murphy was the only change from that victory over Middletown. With only that last four win since the Derry final victory in November, Banagher came into the final without a lot of competitive action and at times it showed in a low scoring opening in which St Mary's hit four wides before the first half water break.
Those were half of their first half tally and it could have cost St Mary's were it not for that one moment of brilliance from Brian Og McGilligan two minutes before half-time. Trailing 0-6 to 0-3 after a half in which they really should have been at least level, Banagher won a free 40m from their own goal. Keeper Darrel McDermott trotted out, shaping up to try one from distance before switching it short to Mark Lynch in what looked a pre-arranged training ground move.
Lynch was able to advance and loft a high centre toward the Lisbellaw square which was now bring occupied by McGilligan who had pushed up from his midfield berth. McGIlligan had plenty to do, but got up above a posse of defenders to field a great high catch before turning and firing into Mark Curry's net for a wonderful individual goal that undid all of Lisbellaw's good first half work.
And that work owed everything to Daniel Teague's clever play. Of all the Lisbellaw players, Teague, who finished with six points from play, can feel hard done by after an excellent display.
Starting up top, Teague quickly realised he wouldn't get the better of Ruairi McCloskey inside and began drifting, a tactic which gave Banagher all sort of first half problems. Banagher full back McCloskey was caught between following him and holding his position inside and Teague revelled in the space he found out the field between sweeper Niall Farren.
Teague's registered three first half scores himself but created another two as the sides went tit-for-tat early on with Stefan and Tiarnan McCloskey and Sean McCullagh registering the first half Banagher scores, all from play.
McGilligan's goal would have changed the St Mary's half-time team talk and a different side emerged after the interval with Liam Eoin Campbell and Tiaran McCloskey stretching the lead to 1-5 to 0-6.
Lisbellaw weren't done though, fighting back to equalise at 1-06 to 0-9 by the 43rd minute thanks to scores from Sean Corriagn and two from Teague, either side of another Tiarnan McCloskey effort.
That game was in the mix but only for seconds as Banagher dug even deeper. First, superb work from McGilligan teed up Campbell for his second from play before the excellent Sean McCullagh took the lead out to two points before Lynch's crucial goal arrived on 47 minutes.
And if Lynch was the man who fired the shot, McCullagh had loaded him up perfectly with a lovely move and first time flick into his path which Lynch to full advantage of to finish low to the net for 2-8 to 0-9 as the second had water break was called.
From there Banagher were in game management and while one or two scares came and went, Lisbellew never looked able to grab the goal that may have breathed new life into their challenge. They weren't the first to wash up against the Banagher brick wall and they won't be the last.
Further points from Tiarnan McCloskey, two frees, and Ciaran Lynch put the seal on a deserved win that could have been summed up inside the opening 30 seconds when Gabriel Farren threw himself head first into a brave block on Lisbellew's Tom Keenan.
Banagher are Ulster champions and fully deserve it!
Banagher scorers: Ciaran Lynch (1-1), Brian Og McGilligan (1-0), Stefan McCloskey (0-1), Tiarnan McCloskey (0-5, 3f), Sean McCullagh (0-2), Liam Eoin Campbell (0-2),
Lisbellaw scorers: Daniel Teague (0-6), Ciaran Corrigan (0-2), John Duffy (0-1, 1f), Sean Corrigan (0-2), Conor O'Shea (0-1),
Banagher: Darrell McDermott, Gabriel Farren, Ruairi McCloskey, Cathair McGilligan, NIall Farren, Darragh McCloskey, Mark Lynch, Shane Murphy, Brian Og McGilligan, Callum O'Kane, Tiarnan McCloskey, Ciaran Lynch, Liam Eoin Campbell, Sean McCullagh, Stefan McCloskey. (Subs) Jonathan O'Dwyer for C O'Kane, 45mins; PJ McCloskey for S McCloskey, 52mins; Pauric McCloskey for S McCullagh, 56mins; Fiontan McGIlligan for C McGilligan, 58mins; Niall Biggs for L Campbell, 60mins;
Lisbellaw: Mark Curry, Andrew Breslin, Rory Porteous, Conor McShea, Aidan Flanagan, Daniel Teague, Francie McBrien, Dylan Bannon, Luca McCusker, John Duffy, Ciaran Corrigan, Micheal Flanagan, Sean Corrigan, Caolan Duffy, Tom Keenan. (Subs) Mark Slevin for D Bannon, 49mins; Eoin Cleary for T Keenan, 52mins;
Yellow Cards: L McCusker, 5mins; J Duffy, 48mins; E Cleary, 62mins;
Referee: Colum Cunning (Antrim)