Glen defeat Slaughtneil to make historic first Derry senior final

Ciaran McFaul was superb as Glen shocked Slaughtneil to make the Derry Senior Football final.
Ciaran McFaul was superb as Glen shocked Slaughtneil to make the Derry Senior Football final.

O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship Semi-final

Glen 3-07, Slaughtneil 1-11

WHAT. A. GAME - The Derry Club Championship is the championship that just keeps on delivering.

Glen will meet Magherafelt in Celtic Park on Sunday, October 20th after one of the most dramatic and memorable semi-finals the competition has ever seen in front of a crowd of more than 6,000.

Twenty-two scores, four goals, three black cards and two huge goal line clearances finally helped the Watty Graham's end their Slaughtneil hoodoo to ensure an Oak Leaf decider no one could have predicted.

Little more than six weeks ago Slaughtneil were hitting Glen for 18 points in a Division 1A play-off that finished 3-21 to 0-12. It was a gap no one saw the Maghera men closing but they didn't just close it, they ripped up every pre-match bookie's docket to ensure an historic first appearance in a senior county final.

And what's more they fully deserved it!

Slaughtneil were not at their best but Glen didn't allow them to be with huge performances from every man in green and both Ciaran McFaul and Emmet Bradley clearing goal bound shots off the line.

The scenes at the final whistle told their own story but Jude Donnelly's first message to his players after the whistle was 'nothing won yet'!

The first half was an old fashioned shoot-out of a game, a frantic breathless advert of everything that is good about Derry football. It swung one way, then the other with both sides being asked questions and finding answers at crucial periods.

Glen's big problem in the opening half was a misfiring kick-out which was providing Slaughtneil with more possession than it was the Watty Graham's They rectified it after the break and it proved critical.

For Slaughtneil, Glen's counter-attacking pace was punching holes in the Emmet's rearguard almost at will and they never quite got to grips with it. Seldom has a side opened up Slaughtneil as often as Glen did. Indeed, had Glen taken a couple of extra goal chances they created there may not have been the need for McFaul and Bradley to perform their goal-line heroics.

An early black card for Conor McAllister and a second half one for Shane McGuigan did not help the Emmet's cause but this was Glen's day. They were superb.

This game had so many key moments, any one could have turned the tide had it gone the other way but Glen came out on the right side of just enough of them to get over the line.

In a game of key moments, the critical one could have come as early as the fifth minute. Slaughtneil had started well and were 0-2 to no score when Karl McKaigue was harshly penalised for handling on the ground around the 21m line. With everyone arguing the point, Cathal Mulholland caught everyone out, firing the free quickly into the net before anyone realised what was happening. Faces suddenly turned to referee Barry Cassidy......

Goal given and the Glen confidence flowed from there and it was the cue for a brilliant half, packed full of incident.

Slaughtneil responded as they do, Chrissy McKaigue, Brian Cassidy and Ronan Bradley putting them 0-5 to 1-0 up before McAllister was shown black for deliberately dragging the excellent Conleth McGuickian down.

Glen's second goal arrived with the sides level at 0-5 to 1-2, Jack Doherty surging through a strangely absent Emmet's backline to finish to the net at the second attempt after Sean O'Casside's initial save.

The goal looked to have given Glen a considerable half-time advantage at 2-3 to 0-5 but there would be another twist in first half injury time.

With Glen pulling everyone back, room inside the Maghera '45' was at a premium but Cormac O'Doherty and Keelan Feeney still managed to navigate a path through to set up Ronan Bradley for a brilliant finish into the top corner.

When O'Doherty tagged on a point suddenly the sides were going in level with Glen wondering how it had happened.

If that Slaughtneil blitz had unsettled them, Glen didn't show it however and responded in some style 40 seconds into the second period. Ethan Doherty did superbly to break through off the left hand side. O' Casside did well to save his initial shot but even better to block Emmet Bradley's follow up but he could do nothing when Bradley regathered possession and shot Glen into a 3-03 to 1-06 lead.

It all seemed to be going Glen's way until Ryan Dougan was forced to drag Shane McGuigan down as he headed for goal and suddenly he was heading off after receiving a black card.

Slaughtneil set about chipping away at the lead but Glen's counter attack was keeping them just out of reach, two Shane McGuigan frees being halted by points from Danny Tallon and Alex Doherty.

With Shane McGuigan having departed to the game's third black card, a huge moment arrived on 53 minutes.

Slaughtneil substitute Patsy Bradley sent Meehawl McGrath away and he found Christopher Bradley who was through on goal. The Slaughtneil man sidestepped Glen keeper Callum Mullan-Young but with the goal at his mercy, although slightly off balance, his shot only found McFaul's grateful boot and Glen scrambled clear.

If there was a moment to sum the game up Emmet Bradley provided it right on the 60 minute mark. His side under pressure and Slaughtneil launching everything at them, Bradley produced a huge catch, rising among many to take his team out of danger. Superb.

Glen should have finished the game with a couple of lightning breaks but two points down at 1-11 to 3-07, Slaughtneil were still fighting and almost won it two minutes into injury time.

It was a move started by a Brendan Rogers interception at the other end but with hearts in mouths all over Owenbeg, the ball was worked downfield and suddenly Meehawl McGrath was in on goal. He hit his shot well but it found only the hand of Bradley back helping out on his own goal-line. It typified Glen's performance. Often questioned, every man stood up to be counted.

The scenes at the final whistle wouldn't have been out of place on county final day and Donnelly's message about nothing won yet is probably the most crucial one he delivered on the day.

This was big but there's bigger to come.

Slaughtneil scorers: Ronan Bradley (1-1), Christopher Bradley (0-4, 2f), Shane McGuigan (0-4, 3f), Christopher McKaigue (0-1), Cormac O'Doherty (0-1).

Glen scorers: Cathal Mulholland (1-0), Jack Doherty (1-0), Emmet Bradley (1-1), Paul Gunning (0-2, 2f), Ryan Dougan (0-1), Danny Tallon (0-1), Alex Doherty (0-2).

SLAUGHTNEIL: Sean O' Casside; Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Conor McAllister; Frank McEldowney, Christopher McKaigue, Keelan Feeney; Padriag Cassidy, Meehaul McGrath; Brian Cassidy, Christopher Bradley, Ronan Bradley; Shane McGuigan, Se McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty.

(Subs) Patsy Bradley for C McGuckian, 35mins; Jerome McGuigan for C O'Doherty, 52mins; Conor Cassidy for S MCGuigan (Black Card), 57mins

Black Card: C McAllister, 15mins ; S McGuigan, 54mins;

WATTY GRAHAM'S, GLEN: Callum Mullan-Young; Oran McGill, Ryan Dougan, Oisin Hegarty; Ethan Doherty, Conor Carville, Cathal Mulholland; Ciaran McFaul, Michael Warnock; Jack Doherty, Emmet Bradley, Conleth McGuckian, Paul Gunning, Danny Tallon, Alex Doherty.

(Subs) Conor McDevitt for M Warnock (inj), 7mins; Peadar Kearney for C McAllister (Black Card), 15mins; Cahir McCabe for R Dougan (Black Card), 35mins; Tiarnan Flanagan for P Gunning, 47mins; Eunan Mulholland for C McGuckian, 51mins; Connlan Bradley for D Tallon, 57mins; Stephen O'Hara for A Doherty, 59mins;

Yellow cards: Jack Doherty, 25mins;

Black Cards: R Dougan, 35mins;

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Bellaghy)