Brilliant Steelstown Ladies complete Hat-trick of county titles by defeating Ballymaguigan

Errigal Derrt Ladies Senior Football Championship Final

Steelstown Brian Ogs Ladies celebrate their historic senior title victory over Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.
Steelstown Brian Ogs Ladies celebrate their historic senior title victory over Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.

Steelstown Brian Ogs 3-11, Ballymaguigan 1-05

If good teams win one championship and great teams defend them, what can you say about a group of special players who complete a HAT-TRICK of county titles?

Probably not enough is what! Steelstown Brian Ogs are Derry Senior Ladies football champions for a THIRD successive year after an Orla McGeough inspired 12 point victory over Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday made it five senior finals is six years, three successive titles and four in six years. Simply breath-taking!

Steelstown Ladies celebrate their Derry senior county title victory over Ballymaguigan in Glen on Sunday.

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Last November the Ballyarnett girls were heartbroken. A potential Ulster Intermediate title had just been wrestled from their grasp in injury time by Fermanagh's Kinawly in a defeat they probably didn't deserve. A new season brought new difficulties in the form of injuries to key players and the loss of Ella Rose Sainsbury to a teaching post in Doha.

It was stick or twist time. Their response? To demand manager Thomas Cusack brought them back early for a season in which every player in the squad has doubled down on their efforts to bring success and this emphatic victory was the outcome. And it's one which will once again allow them to turn their attention to an assault on the Ulster title.

But that's for another day. This one was for celebration.

McGeough, who hit 1-04 and set up as much again, picked up the 'Player of the Match' trophy but in truth it could have gone to any one of six or seven players in blue and yellow. Katie Holly was the team's dynamo and instrumental to a pacy Steelstown transition game that Ballymaguigan couldn't stop. Emma Doherty continues to lead the lead and provide an example to younger team-mates, controlling tempo and managing games from her deep role while Aoife McGough is as good a full back as there is in Ulster. Megan Devine was another to catch the eye, as was Ciara McGurk, but the same could be said about anyone in blue.

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Steelstown set up with Doherty and Holly in a dual sweeping role which provided plenty of protection to an excellent full back line marshalled impeccably by McGough. Well, impeccably after the initial 30 seconds that is!

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If Steelstown were shocked they didn't show it. Instead, led by their experienced players, they regrouped and set about keeping the St. Treas' scoreless for the remainder of the half as they steadily built a 1-09 to 1-0 interval lead which could have been even more emphatic.

A Holly run instigated the opening point for McGeough four minutes in and from there Steelstown never looked back. Within seconds Dara McKeever was firing right footed into the back of the 'Guigan net for the spark that really lit Steelstown fires. From there McGeough (3), McKeever, Clodagh Laverty (2f), McGurk and Aoife Collins tagged on points as the Brian Ogs turned around with a nine point interval lead. Two of those scores, one long range effort each from McGeough and McGurk, were particularly impressive and indicative of a team full of confidence.

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And all this was achieved it despite a yellow card for Devine after a high tackle on Ballymaguigan's dangerous Erin O'Neill 24 minutes in, signalling a temporary stint in the 'bin' for the half-back.

Ballymaguigan required a major turn around and they set about the second half in the right way, outscoring Steelstown 0-4 to 0-1 in the third quarter with Anna Martin deadly accurate from three frees and registering an excellent effort from play to bring it to 1-10 to 1-04 by the 49th minute. Steelstown by contrast were wasting chances and grateful the intensity of their defence was keeping 'Guigan at arm's length.

However, the title was finally made safe with 10 minutes left and it was fitting that McGeough once again played a key role, her beautiful cross field pass picking out McGurk's excellent run forward. McGurk advanced to find Collins with the forward firing beyond Seona Wills in some style.

Two minutes later and the champagne corks were popping when another lovely team move brought goal number three as Holly broke forward for the umpteenth time and picked out McGeough who exchanged passes with McKeever before applying the finish that her display deserved.

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The full-time whistle was the cue for scenes of celebration as the large travelling support joined their heroes on the pitch. They've set the benchmark in Derry now for the past six years and can now look forward to another date with Ulster!

Steelstown scorers: Orla McGeough (1-4), Dara McKeever (1-2), Aoife Collins (1-1), Clodagh Laverty (0-2, 2f), Ciara McGurk (0-1), Eimear O'Doherty (0-1),

Ballymaguigan scorers: Aoife McGlone (1-0), Anna Martin (0-5, 4f),

STEELSTOWN: Molly McBride, Orlaith McGough, Aoife McGough, Emma Connolly, Megan Devine, Katy Holly, Enya Doherty, Ciara McGurk, Niamh Gilmore, Lea Casey, Orla McGeough, Dara McKeever, Clodagh Laverty, Aoife Collins, Emma Doherty. (Subs) Eimear O'Doherty for C Laverty, 49mins; Aisling O'Neill for K Burke, 50mins; Niamh Friel for O McGough, 56mins; Anna Boyle for D McKeever, 59mins; Laura Henderson for E Connolly, 59mins;

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BALLYMAGUIGAN: Seona Walls, Joanne Corr, Mollie McGahan, Katie Gribbin, Dervla Stinson, Caoimhe Quinn, Sinead Brady, Kayla Letters, Nicole Nugent, Annie Crozier, Erin Doherty, Anna Martin, Aisling O’Neill, Aoife McGlone, Erin O’Neill. (Subs) Clare McCartney for K Letters, 41mins;

REFEREE: Alan Nash (Doire Trasna)