Glenullin superb as Eoin Bradley point clinches thrilling victory over Drumsurn
McFeely Group Derry Intermediate Championship, Group A
Glenullin 0-14, Drumsurn 1-09
Glenullin took a grip on Group A with a superb victory over a Drumsurn side that will still have plenty to say about the destination of the 2022 McFeely Group Intermediate Championship title.
Drumsurn were being tipped as contenders going into what was their championship opener and to that end this result changes nothing. Sean Brady's men are still capable of going all the way and will be better for having had this game, even if they were less than pleased with a few of the refereeing decisions on the night. The real surprise though was Paddy Bradley's Glenullin who were superb throughout and, on this form, must be considered dark horses for what is developing into a fascinating championship battle.
After a promising league campaign and a morale boosting championship win against Greenlough in their first game, this was the acid test of Glenullin's progress but they passed with flying colours and Bradley deserves huge credit for the transformative work he's done since taking the reins. A deep lying counter-attacking game smothered and frustrated Drumsurn's attack in equal measures but it would have meant nothing had the Mitchel's not been able to back it up at the other end of the pitch.
And there you found Eoin Bradley as much a handful as ever and backed up by the imperious Neil McNicholl who Drumsurn made the mistake of allowing too much space in the opening half. Those two will grab plenty of headlines but in Conor Rafferty Glenullin had enough legs for three games but he was backed up by plenty of others every time turnover ball was won which was far too often for Drumsurn's liking.
St. Matthew's showed obvious signs of first game rustiness with a number of unforced errors, especially before half-time, but even without being anywhere near their best, they still managed to hit the front with 10 minutes remaining, albeit through a slightly fortuitous Ryan Mullan goal after the ball arrived at the full forward courtesy of a miscued Tiarnan McHugh shot. That part was luck but the finish was anything but, Mullan spinning on a sixpence to fire home brilliantly for a 1-09 to 0-11 lead, the first time Drumsurn had led in the game.
Had St. Matthew's managed to tag on another score they probably would have seen the game out but instead Glenullin responded in style, firing home the final three points of the game with two McNicholl frees and an Eoin Bradley right footed effort with the last kick four minutes into injury time. In short, this was proper championship fare.
The first half was all about Glenullin's pace on the break. Drumsurn had plenty of the ball but without ever translating it to the scoreboard they way you would have expected them to. That was down to Glenulllin's defensive intensity though they had keeper Niall O'Kane to thank for a couple of decent saves, notably from Tiaran McHugh inside the opening 10 minutes. The Mitchel's, however, deserved their 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.
From throw-in, Eoin Bradley took only eight seconds to win a mark which he duly converted and it set the tone for Glenullin who defended the '45' before springing forward to support Bradley and Leigh Mullan any time possession was won.
The sides traded scores, Mark O'Kane pointing after an outrageous cross-field pass from Eoin Bradley and Dara Rafferty answering with a spectacular point of his own before Murray made it 0-6 to 0-4.
A trademark Neil McNicholl run was unceremoniously stopped by Daniel McNicholl which brought the Drumsurn defender a 27th minute black card and gave Bradley an easy free for 0-7 to 0-4.
Drumsurn handled the card well though, outscoring Glenullin 2-1 as a McHugh free and Fearghal Close's fisted point brought the first half scoring to a close and another McHugh free opened the second.
It as 0-10 to 0-7 when Glenullin's Eunan O'Kane was next to fall foul of referee Cathal Doherty when he cynically stopped Shae Murray's progress along the right, prompting the game's second back card of the evening. Again it appeared the team down to 14 were coping well when substitute Felix Kilmartin stretched the home lead to 0-11 t 0-8 only to see Dara Rafferty hit a sublime score on 47 minutes.
O'Kane was only just back on when Mullan found the Glenullin net and now we had a true test of Glenullin's grit. Their response suggested they can be among the contenders as they rounded out the game with those two McNicholl frees and Bradley's clincher.
Both sides will take plenty from a game which leaves Glenullin perfectly placed to grab the Group A top spot with games against Slauhtmanus and Lissan to come. Drumsurn will be back. They're too good not to be and on this evidence, this Intermediate Championship is going to be worth the watching.
Glenullin scorers: Neil McNicholl (0-5, 4f), Eoin Bradley (0-4, 2f, 1m), Donal O'Kane (0-2), Mark O'Kane (0-1), Feraghal Close (0-1), Felix Kilmartin (0-1),
Drumsurn scorers: Ryan Mullan (1-0), Tiarnan McHugh (0-4, 3f), Dara Rafferty (0-3), Shea Murray (0-2, 1f).
Glenullin: Niall O'Kane, Conor Rafferty, Eunan O'Kane, Daniel O'Kane, Mark O'Kane, John O'Kane, Ronan Close, Traglach Bradley, Neil McNicholl, Donal O'Kane, Cathal Hasson, Fearghal Close, Leigh Mulan, Eoin Bradley, Christopher Dempsey. (Subs) Felix Kilmartin for L Mullan, HT: Eunan Boylan for D O'Kane, 40mins; Caolan McNeill for C Hasson, 60mins.
Drumsurn: Ronan Rafferty, Martin Hamill, Eoin Ferris, Daniel McNicholl, Fearghal McIntyre, Dara Rafferty, Dane Mullan, Tiarnan Woods, Shea Murray, Sean Butcher, Tiarnan McHugh, Daryl Mullan, Harry Foster, Ryan Mullan, Barry Harkin. (Subs) Paddy Welsby for B Harkin, 47mins; Pearse McNickle for S Butcher, 57mins.
Referee: Cathal Doherty