Desertmartin regain Junior Championship title as superb second half ends Dolan's dreams
Premier Electrics Derry Junior Football Championship
Desertmartin 0-12, Sean Dolan's 0-02
Championship victory must feel a bit like buses for Desertmartin, you wait 53 years for one to come along and suddenly a second follows right behind!
The St. Martin's secured a second successive Premier Electrics Derry Junior crown in Celtic Park on Saturday thanks to a vastly improved second half against underdogs, Sean Dolan's. It was the result more were expecting pre-match but it wasn't achived in the manner most would have thought.
Far from being the cannon fodder some had billed them as, Ciaran Wilkinson's Dolan's led for most of a low scoring first half in which the Creggan side's compact shape and intense defence seem to have the favourites double guessing themselves.
Only the respective sides top forwards, Dolan's Odhran McKane and Desertmartin's All Ireland winning minor, Lachlan Murray, troubled the scoreboard in a first half hour and even then we still waited out first score from play as Murray frees twice cancelled out efforts from the Dolan's man.
Indeed, Dolan's racked up another four wides in the same period which may have gave the champions more to think about had they split the posts. Gavin McGreevey's injury time first half score was the game's first from play and left the holders 0-3 to 0-2 up at the break but Dolan's were very much in the game.
That changed in the third quarter. Backed by whatever wind was swirling around Celtic Park, Kevin O'Neill's side finally seized the initiative to open up 0-8 to 0-2 advantage by the second half water break and it was all but game over.
The changed owed everything to Murray's fellow All Ireland winner, Conor Shiels who was the best player on the pitch. Wearing No. 2, there were very few inches of the Celtic Park surface he didn't cover and his energy and drive was typical of a more direct Desertmartin after the break.
Eunan McElhennon and Aidy Trainor weren't far behind Shiels in terms of the individual accolades while Murray, although quiet by his considerably high standards, still registered six crucial free frees and looked to have at least another gear he could rely on if required.
Dolan's, for all their endeavour and battling qualities, never looked like having the scores to trouble the holders who, once in front, never looked likely to be caught.
A curious opening half saw a very conservative Desertmartin lose captain Martin Breen to injury after only three minutes and using Murray in a deep role which meant he was often crowded out by sheer weight of numbers. Dolan's had Paul Melaugh and McKane rotating a two man inside line with the latter afforded licence to roam but the longer the game went on the less the city men were able to get him on the ball.
With Joe Gallagher in the sweeping role for Dolan's, Desertmartin's slow build up play in the first half was playing into the opposition's hands, a fact that changed considerably when the St. Martin's players started running at men after the break.
Conceding Dolan's kick-outs also handed the underdogs the initiative to build play with too much of the first half bogged down between the two 45s.
Still, 0-3 to 0-2 up at the break thanks to McGreevey's late first half point, Desertmartin already had a lead they would never lose, a fact that was emphasised by much improved third quarter that won them the game.
Another from Derry's All Ireland winning minor panel of 2020, Ryan McEldowney, grabbed the second half's opening point and, with the benefit of the wind, Desertmartin never looked back. Another Murray free made it 0-5 to 0-2 and already you sensed the underdogs needed a goal that they never looked like getting.
Trainor's first point was a brilliant effort, leaping to take an audacious high catch after Ryan McCloskey had brilliantly denied McEldowney a goal, the ball then recycled for Trainor to catch and shoot in one superb motion despite bring under pressure.
Another Murray free and a second wonderful effort from Trainor, this time from distance, gave the their six point cushion by the water break.
Trainor's influence was really growing with the 45th minute typifying his energetic display as his miscued his shot, was then first to react to gather it again before forcing a '45' which he then slotted over for 0-9 to 0-2.
McEldowney and two Murray frees sealed the deal as Dolan's became frustrated at their inability to stop what was now inevitable. Dolan's had made a real game of it and Desertmartin's first half approach suggested they were more than wary of WIlkinson's men but the Joe Brolly Cup was heading back to Desertmartin and no one could argue. The best team in Derry Junior football were worthy champions.
Desertmartin scorers: Lachlan Murray (0-6, 6f), Aidy Trainor (0-3, 1 '45'), Gavin McGreevey (0-1), Ryan McEldowney (0-2),
Sean Dolan's scorers: Odhran McKane (0-2, 2f)
Desertmartin: Adrian McGuigan, Connor Shiels, Martin Breen, Connor Monaghan, Eunan McElhennon, Dermot Breen, Gavin Donnelly, Oran Kelly, Paul McGovern, Aidy Taylor, Enda McGuckin, Ryan McEldowney, Gavin McGreevey, Lachlan Murray, Gregory McGovern. (Subs) Ryan McElhennon for M Breen (inj), 3mins; Declan Murray for O Kelly, 56mins; Paul McCrystal for R McEldowney, 56mins;
Sean Dolan's: Ryan McCloskey, Ruairi Thompson, Joe Gallagher, Ryan McLaughlin, Darren Logue, Caoimhinn, Thomnpson, Gary Fisher, Paul Melaugh, Eamon McGinley, Kevin Nixon, Ryan Deery, Caolan McCosker, Odhran McKane, Gearoid McDermott, Ruaidhri McGurk. (Subs) Paul Clifford for D Logue, 38mins; Sean O'Donnell for J Gallagher, 41mins; Mark O'Kane for E McGinley, 45mins; O McKane, 57mins; Liam McNulty for P Melaugh, 56mins;
Yellow cards: C McCosker, 13mins; J Gallagher, 27mins; G Fisher, 43mins; R McLaughlin, 50mins;
Referee: Mervyn McAleese (Drum)