Swatragh hold off Banagher to claim Derry Junior hurling title
Swatagh 3-17, Banagher 0-22
Swatragh were crowned 2023 Derry Junior hurling champions after Cahal Murray's 2-04 saw the Davitt's hold off Banagher in a thrilling decider at Owenbeg on Sunday.
Swatragh deserved a victory that will see them move forward to an Ulster date with the Down champions but Banagher had their chances too, bringing it back to a single point game as the clock ticked into four added minutes of injury time. Yet how many times have we heard goals win championship matches and Swatragh's third of the afternoon, courtesy of substitute Kevin McAllister, finally put the seal on a first hurling championship title since the 2020 Intermediate crown.
But it was Murray's late first half intervention that won a game in which both club had periods of control.
It was a first half which Banagher dominated for long periods but during which Swatragh were much more efficient with possession. The Davitt's were indebted to two great saves from keeper Conor O'Kane who denied both Niall Brolly and Callum Armstrong with brilliant point blank saves as Swatragh turned around with a 2-08 to 0-12 half-time lead.
That was thanks in no small part to the finishing of Murray who put 19 scoreless minutes behind him to hit 2-02 in the final 11 minutes of the opening period. And it changed the complexion of the game.
Previously Banagher had hit six successive points to fight back from an early 0-5 to 0-1 deficit, built by the Davitt's by the ninth minute thanks to scores from Sean M Quinn, Se Walsh (2), Tiarnan Walsh and Fintan McGurk.
At that point it looked like Banagher's wastefulness, they hit six first half wides, would cost them but eventually they got a foothold thanks to points from Armstrong, Callum O'Kane (2),Ciaran Lynch (2) and Ruairi McCloskey which saw Banagher 0-7 to 0-5 up after 18 minutes.
Then Murray took control. His first arrived onn19 minutes when he shrugged off two defenders coming in off the right to flash a fierce finish past Conor Campbell to put Swatragh back in front.
And if that was good, it became even better for Swatragh when two minutes later he had his seconds. Campbell this time did superbly to initially deny him with a fantastic stop but when the ball was recycled and dropped back in by Dominic Bradley, Murray won the high ball over his marker and made no mistake with his second attempt.
Banagher responded well, Armstrong accurate from frees but the goals ensured Swatragh had a two point cushion at the break.
They maintained that cushion for the majority of the second period without ever being able to fully distance themselves from the St. Mary's and it almost cost them.
With eight minutes left and Swatragh 2-16 to 0-18 ahead, Banagher substitute Oisin McCloskey was brought down inside the square and the Feeny men had a penalty. McCloskey stepped forward himself but fired his penalty inches too high and a point was his only reward.