Slaughtneil defeat Kevin Lynch's to make it NINE Derry Championship titles in succession
Leadon Timberframe Derry Senior Hurling Championship Final
Slaughtneil 1-17, Kevin Lynch's 2-09
Slaughtneil's decade of Derry hurling dominance continued as the best hurling team the county has ever seen made it nine senior Championship titles in succession despite a second half scare against old foes Kevin Lynch's in Owenbeg.
Slaughtneil had all but wrapped up the game in a blistering first half display that left them 11 points ahead and with one hand on the Fr. Collins Cup. The second half seemed a formality except someone forgot to tell Lynch's who reappeared for the second half in inspired form, going on to outscore the Emmet's by six points. It wasn't enough though as Brendan Rogers' late free secured a victory that came at a cost as Slaughtneil lost captain Cormac O'Doherty to a shoulder injury while Chrissy McKaigue picked up a knee injury. With a football semi-final next week and now the Ulster Hurling Championship on the horizon, those two would be a huge miss.
For Lynch's, a tale of what might have been. Written off by most before the game, their second half display showed their day will come. This was probably a year or two too soon. Two superb Conor Kelly goals after half-time illustrated what might have been and had the game back in the melting pot as the deficit was reduced to only four points on three occasions.
In the end, Slaughtneil's experience made the difference. They've been down this road before and never panicked to see out a deserved victory.
Lynch's sprung something of a surprise by naming Liam Og Hinphey at No. 1, perhaps feeling the former Derry player's experience would be needed on the big occasion. And they weren't wrong as the champions took charge from early with Brian Cassidy's early goal helping the reigning champions to a 1-05 to 0-02 lead by the first half water break.
From there, the game took on a sense of inevitability about it. Lynch's had set up with Richie Mullan sweeping which counter-productively meant Gerald Bradley became a free man for Slaughtneil and he was the base from which many first half attacks were built. Lynch's were well set up and designed to try and thwart most of Slaughtneil's most potent threats but doubling up around the likes of Cormac O'Doherty and Brendan Rogers means more space for others. With Slaughtneil, there were simply too many attacking threats for Lynch's to cover.
One man to benefit in the opening half was goal scorer Brian Cassidy who fed off the hard working Se McGuigan and grabbed 1-01 from play, including that sixth minute goal which was flashed into the net after good work from O'Doherty to intercept a short Lynch's puck out.
The champions were already 0-2 to 0-1 up at that point, an O'Doherty free and one from Rogers cancelling out John Mullan opening point for the Lynch's.
A Richie Mullan free answered Cassidy's goal but they would managed only on more score for the remainder of the half and Slaughtneil built what looked an unassailable interval lead of 1-11 to 0-03, despite Lynch's having the breeze to come after the break.
O'Doherty enjoyed a quiet enough half but still managed six frees. With a defence that was offering Lynch's precious little to pin their hopes on, the 11 point half-time advantage looked well beyond Lynch's.
If it was though, no one told the Dungiven men who returned to the field with renewed intensity, hitting the second's half's opening three scores through Tiarnan McHugh, Richie Mullan (free) and a brilliant effort from Odhran McKeever from well inside his own half.
The tails were up but Slaughtneil seemed to have dealt with that after Cassidy and O'Doherty (free) pointed at the other end.
Lynch's would not be denied though with a more direct approach and greater intensity causing Slaughtneil problems and paying real dividends.
Kelly first goal on 47 minutes was superb and owed everything to a brilliant reverse pass inside from Odhran McKeever. Galloping on to it, Kelly still had plenty to do but strode forward and fired a superb high finish across Oisin O'Doherty and into the net for 1-14 to 1-07.
That offered a glimmer of hope but when a second arrived only seven minutes later thanks to the same combination and same outcome, it was game on at 1-15 to 2-07 with 10 minutes still to play.
The loss of captain and talisman O'Doherty didn't help the Slaughtneil cause but the Emmets have been down this road before and the experience was key. How many team who lose a player like O'Doherty can call on one as good as Brendan Rogers to step into his role? Not many but that's exactly what Rogers did, firing over one from play and then takin on his captain's free taking responsibilities to fire over the insurance point that means Slaughtneil's dominance of Derry goes on for another year.
Slaughtneil scorers: Cormac O'Doherty (0-7, 7f), Brian Cassidy (1-3), Brendan Rodgers (0-3, 1f), Gerald Bradley (0-1), Se McGuigan (0-1), Karl McKaigue (0-1), Jerome McGuigan (0-1),
Kevin Lynch's: Conor Kelly (2-1), John Mullan (0-1), Richie Mullan (0-4, 4f), Tiernan McHugh (0-1), Odhran McKeever (0-1), Padraig O'Kane (0-1),
Slaughtneil: Oisin O'Doherty, Karl McKaigue, Shaned McGuigan, Paul McNeill, Sean Cassidy, Conor McKenna, Meehaul McGrath, Gerald Bradley, Chrissy McKaigue, Mark McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty, Brendan Rodgers, Jerome McGuigan, Se McGuigan, Brian Cassidy. (Subs) Shea Cassidy for M McGuigan, 50mins; Conor McAllister for Sean Cassidy, 52mins; Jack Cassidy for Se McGuigan, 57mins; Pronsias Burke for C O'Doherty 9inj), 58mins;
Kevin Lynch's: Liam Og Hinphey, Jack Mullan, Paddy Kelly, Niall McNicholl, Niall Ferris, Richie Mullan, Darragh McGilligan, Thomas Brady, John Mullan, Sean Kelly, Odhran McKeever, Shea McKeever, Conor Kelly, Tiarnan McHugh, Adrian Armstrong. (Subs) Padraig O'Kane for A Armstrong, 36mins; Eoghan Cassidy for T Brady, 43mins; Mark Craig for S McKeever, 43mins; Conor McKelvey for K Mullan, 48mins;
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)