Desertmartin shock Faughanvale as Derry Intermediate Championship continues to surprise

McFeely Group Intermediate Football Championship, Group B

Desertmartin's Ryan McGuckin takes on Faughanvale's Cathal O'Kane during Sunday's Intermediate Championship Group B encounter at John McLaughlin Park.
Desertmartin's Ryan McGuckin takes on Faughanvale's Cathal O'Kane during Sunday's Intermediate Championship Group B encounter at John McLaughlin Park.

Faughanvale 1-08, Desertmartin 1-11

An Intermediate Championship intent on throwing up more questions than answers produced another curved ball at John McLaughlin Park on Sunday where traditional dark horses Faughanvale lost out to an impressive Desertmartin team.

Kevin O'Neill's 2021 Junior champions have had little trouble adjusting back to the rigours of Intermediate football and have now done enough in two Championship games to suggest they can have a real go this season. With a one point victory over Limavady already in the Group B bag', the St Martin's were facing a 'Vale side that had defeated pre-championship favourites Foreglen but Desertmartin produced a result that once again illustrated just how open this race for the Sheridan, Bateson and Lee Cup is this season.

It wasn't always pretty, but it was controlled, calculated and driven on by county star Lachlan Murray and the superb Eunan McElhennon. Desertmartin frustrated the life of 'Vale by starving them of possession with a game of championship chess that required one of the two protagonists to blink first. More often than not it was Vale.

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Murray grabbed 0-4, including two of the crucial four points that took his team away from their hosts when the game poised at 1-07 apiece with 10 minutes remaining. Murray still, however, had to play second fiddle to the man that grabbed the other two of that quartet as McElhennon added a brilliant 1-02 to an powerful display of running football. There were other excellent showings from Ryan McEldowney, Gavin McGreevey and Paul McGovern from a performance that suggested a team content with a counter-attacking game-plan that works well for them.

'Vale on the other hand were left with nothing but frustration. Joe Gray's men showed in patches the sort of form they are capable of, notably at the start of each half, but they will be kicking themselves for allowing the game to be played on Desertmartin's terms too often.

The home side appeared to have the game just where they wanted it when they scored a Kevin Martin penalty with the last kick of the opening half and then emerged to turn the 1-03 to 1-05 interval deficit into a 1-07 to 1-05 lead but they suddenly stepped back off the gas at just the wrong time.

That period either side of the break had seen 'Vale hit 1-04 without reply but it was followed by as period of 25 minutes without a home score which was only ended thanks to a Eunan Murray effort in injury time. Even then they might have salvaged an unlikely draw when Patrick O'Kane's blistering close range free thundered back off the Desertmartin cross bar before the ensuing scramble was halted by referee Damien Harkin's full time whistle.

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It was a breathless finale to a game that proved an intriguing tactical battle.

Early on it was all Faughanvale whose constantly rotating inside line was giving Desertmartin's problems as Kevin Martin (free) and Cathal O'Kane gave their team an early two point lead. Once the pace of the game dropped however - or more accurately was being managed by the visitors - that's when Vale found difficulties.

Two Greevey points, one a free, and one each from inside man Ryan Henry and midfielder Oran Kelly had wiped out the home advantage by the 22nd minute when the St. Martin led 0-4 to 0-2. The sides traded scores through Martin and Murray before Desertmartin then took a grip with McElhennon's goal.

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There were still three minutes of the half remaining and Vale needed inspiration. They got it with the last kick of the half as Martin confidently stroked home his penalty after Desertamartin keeper Adrian McGuigan had taken the legs of Jordan Curran while trying to retrieve a ball that had spilled from his grasp.

Now turning around only two down, Vale re-emerged to enjoy their best spell of the match as within 60 seconds they had levelled thanks to Cathal O'Kane and Murray points.

It got even better when James Moore's '45' and Dean Curran's point pushed the Greysteel men two in front by the 40th minute with Desertmartin looking seriously rattled for the first time in the game. But 'Vale never pushed on.

McGreevey's point was Desertmartin's first score for 13 minutes either side of half-time but it settled the visitors who regrouped with periods of possession inside their own half before drawing level with a lovely Murray score.

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And when the game was in the balance, it was Murray and McElhennon who took control, Murray's long range free being followed by a fabulous solo effort from McElhennon for 1-09 to 1-07.That duo repeated the trick once more minutes later to put Desertmartin four up with three minutes to play.

Faughanvale rallied, Murray's score paving the way for O'Kane's late, late effort which might have saved the game but Desertmartin survived. They'd done more than that in fact. They'd proved they belong among the contenders

Faughanvale scorers: Kevin Martin (1-1, 1 pen, 1f), Cathal O'Kane (0-2), Eunan Murray (0-3), James Moore (0-1, 1 '45'), Dean Curran (0-1),

Desertmartin scorers: Eunan McElhennon (1-2), Lachlan Murray (0-4, 2f), Gavin McGreevey (0-3, 1f), Ryan Henry (0-1), Oran Kelly (0-1).

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Faughanvale: Daryl Moore, Shane McElhinney, Michael Sweeney, Gordan Fahey, Jordan Curran, Conor McGuinness, Connlaoth McMcGee, Eoin McElhinney, Oisin Quinn, James Moore, Cathal O'Kane, Kevin Martin, Eunan Murray, Patrick O'Kane, Dean Curran. (Subs) Sean Butcher for C McGee, HT; Kyle McGuinness for D Curran, 44mins; Brandon O'Doherty for S McElhinney, 54mins;

Desertmartin: Adrian McGuigan, Ryan McGuckin, Martin Breen, Conor Monaghan, Eunan McElhennon, Connor Shiels, Ryan McEldowney, Gavin Donnelly, Oran Kelly, Lachlan Murray, Paul McGovern, Dermot Breen, Gavin McGreevey, Ryan Henry, Simon Matterson. (Subs) Rory O'Hagan for O Kelly, 47mins; Adrian Trainor for G McGreevey, 57mins;

Referee: Damien Harkin