Steelstown secure back-to-back Senior Championship titles with grandstand finish against Ballinascreen

2021 Errigal Derry Senior Ladies Football Championship Final

Saturday, 9th October 2021, 8:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th October 2021, 8:02 pm
Steelstown players celebrate their Senior Championship Final victory in Celtic Park on Saturday. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Steelstown Brian Ogs 1-08, Ballinascreen 0-04

Steelstown Brian Ogs are back-to-back Derry Ladies Senior football champions after an inspired final quarter saw the city ladies reclaim their crown at Celtic Park on Saturday.

Full-back Aoife McGough was the inspiration for a hard fought win, her marauding runs from deep with the game tied three points a-piece setting the tone for Brian Ogs' grand stand finish that saw them hit 1-04 after the second half water break.

Steelstown joint captains Ciara McGurk and Aoife McGough lift the 2021 Errigal Senior Championship trophy in Celtic Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Aoife Collins' excellent fisted goal three minutes before the end, rising highest to get her hands on Eimear O'Doherty's dangerous ball to the edge of the square, put the icing on the cake of a victory that means it's three senior titles in five years for the Thomas Cusack's side who will now set their sights on an Ulster Championship date against the Donegal champions at the end of October.

Not that they had it easy. The final scoreline fails to reflect 'Screen's contribution to a game they let go in a crucial third quarter. Turning around one point in the ascendancy at half-time, 'Screen dominated but crucially fail to register a single score went on top against a strangely low key Steelstown.

Time and again, the south Derry side got themselves into promising positions but were unable to capitalise with McGough and her defensive colleagues keeping the Ballyarnett side on level pegging after Emma Doherty's equalising free at the start of the second period.

And a team like this Steelstown side are never going to be kept quiet forever and it was the McGough's dynamic busts from the back, alongside the non stop running of Ciara McGurk Lea Casey, that finally seemed to awaken her colleagues.

Steelstown Brian Ogs' Aoife Collins scores the only goal of the 2021 Derry Ladies Senior Championship final in Celtic Park. Photo: George Sweeney

Edging ahead seconds before the second half water break thanks to Leah McGonagle's brilliant point, the Brian Ogs never looked back after the short sabbatical with Ella Rose Sainsbury, 'Player of the Match in the 2020 final against Ballymaguigan, Niamh Gilmore and Emma Doherty coming to the fore alongside McGurk who was everywhere.

First, Orla McGeough took a lovely pass from Doherty to split the posts for 0-5 to 0-3 before Collins found her range with a lovely effort for Steelstown's sixth point.

Kathryn Canavan was also becoming more and more prominent and it was her run and combination with Collins that teed up Sainsbury for probably the point of the match on 52 minutes and a four point lead.

If there was still any doubt at that point, Collins' airborne goal removed it completely wit the roars of the big Celtic Park crowd signally they knew the destination of the trophy.

Louise Murphy scored a superb consolation point for 'Screen but it was never going to be enough, Casey rounding off a fine individual display of her own with the game's final score to spark wold celebration among the sea of blue and yellow.

Covid denied Steelstown a chance at Ulster in 2020 and that now has to be the aim and if they can produce their final 15 minutes display over the full hour, they'll be hard to stop but it's hard not to feel a little sympathy for 'Screen. In Aine and Rachel McAllister, Louise Murphy and Anna McDaid they had four of the game's best performers.

Their fast breaking counter attack style had Steelstown in trouble for long periods but they found the Brain Ogs backline, marshalled brilliantly by McGough too tough a cookie to crack. Only one second half score tells its own story but they contributed fully to a fine advertisement for ladies football.

A low key opening half did little to suggest the grand finale we would get as a great turnover from Clare Kelly denied Orla McGeough an early opportunity before Aine McAllister hit an effort wide at the other end.

The opening scoring arrived on five minutes, and it was the 2019 champions who got it as a fine passing move ended with former Derry captain Cait Glass slotting over the top from 25m.

The defences were on top in the early stages, typified by an excellent block from Dania Donnelly on McGurk’s attempt.

Doherty was just wide of the mark with her first free of the day on eight minutes before Kathryn Connery was in the right place to make a save on a tame shot from McGeough.

Lauren McKenna missed the mark when off balance on 12 minutes before, at the other end, Collins dropped her attempt short into the hands of Connery. Indeed, it was the 16th minute when the sides drew level as Steelstown’s Doherty this time found her range with a free to make it one point apiece.

After the water break Ballinascreen captain Louise Murphy hit two quickfire shots, the first a point after finding space in behind the Steelstown’s defence while the second was a well-struck free from distance on the left side.

The Og’s narrowed the gap to one four minutes before the half-time whistle as Clare Kelly got another great block on McGurk, but Anthony Campbell pulled it back for a free which Doherty converted from 13m to leave it 0-3 to 0-2 at the interval.

Then same the see-saw second half, 'Screen not able to capitalise on their period of dominance, Steelstown using their to remind everyone just why they are the reigning senior county champions!

Steelstown scores: Aoife Collins (1-1), Emma Doherty (0-3, 3f), Leah McGonagle (0-1), Orla McGeough (0-1), Ella Rose Sainsbury (0-1), Lea Casey (0-1).

Ballinascreen scorers: Louise Murphy (0-3, 1f), Cait Glass (0-1),

Steelstown Brian Ogs: Ruagin Doherty; Orla McGough, Aoife McGough, Lea Casey; Enya Doherty, Kathryn Canavan, Leah McGonagle; Niamh Gilmore, Emma Doherty (0-2f); Ella-Rose Sainsbury, Ciara McGurk, Clodagh Laverty; Eimear O’Doherty, Aoife Collins, Orla McGeough. (Subs) Laura Henderson for C Laverty, 42mins; Dara McKeever for E O'Doherty, 58mins.

Ballinascreen: Kathryn Connery; Clare Kelly, Dania Donnelly, Catriona McBride; Lauren McKenna, Anna McDaid, Cait Glass (0-1); Aine McAllister, Rachel McAllister; Caroline Rafferty, Jackie Donnelly, Amy Rose Mulligan; Casey McKenna, Louise Murphy (0-2, 1f); Aine Doyle. Subs: Leah McBride for C McBride, 16mins; Emma McIvor for A Mulligan, 47mins; Caoimhe Kelly for L McKenna, 47mins.

Referee: Anthony Campbell (Magherafelt).