GAA Football

"We've got a series of tweets that people wrote about us that are on our WhatsApp group. All that was used as motivation."

Magherafelt celebrate after beating Glen during the Derry Senior Football Championship Final at Celtic Park on Sunday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 20-10-2019
From Cahair O'Kane at Celtic Park

O’Neills Derry SFC final: Magherafelt 0-12 Glen 0-11

IT might have ended in the most ridiculous of controversies, but neither side was disputing the fact that Magherafelt deserved to end their 41-year wait for a county title.

Almost seven minutes into what was meant to be four minutes of stoppage time, during which there had been further delays, Glen worked a chance to equalise from out on the wing.

But just as the ball was being passed forward to Ciaran McFaul on the Magherafelt 21’, the whistle sounded. The ball left McFaul’s right boot a second later and, according the man himself, sailed between the posts.

It would have salvaged a draw for Glen, but it would have been one that they scarcely deserved on the basis of the hour’s football.

Magherafelt led by 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time and while the last 15 minutes were played on their nerves, and included a penalty miss from the otherwise excellent Shane Heavron, there was no doubt as to who the better side was.

“They didn’t get the shot away,” said Rossas’ boss Adrian Cush afterwards.

“I think I was halfway across the pitch when I saw him shooting. I felt we got a couple of unfair decisions. We missed a penalty and our man’s poleaxed going for the rebound.

“I don’t have any complaints about the referee obviously, we won, but I’d be very surprised if Glen have.”

And to be fair to Jude Donnelly, they didn’t really.

While the Watties’ boss admitted he was “very disappointed” with the overall performance of referee John Joe Cleary, he admitted that perhaps their semi-final win over Slaughtneil had got to them.

“Three or four decisions that were crucial… The one at the end there, I don't know what the rule is on it, but do you play to the end of the move or if it is a dead ball? But to blow the whistle, when in my opinion the ball had left the boot and to lose a game that way…” said Donnelly, although replays later showed that the whistle had gone by the time McFaul received the ball.

“But look, I keep saying it, Magherafelt played very well, we were just a wee bit flat. Maybe there was a bit too much training, maybe the win against Slaughtneil...”

For Magherafelt, it’s been a long journey in so many ways. Take aside the four decades, they were pilloried after their championship exit against Slaughtneil last year.

A spell just before half-time went viral on social media, and just over a year on, the slating they took provided a massive chunk of their motivation over the past few weeks.

“I thought it was very, very unfair. People were telling us we were ultra-defensive in 2018 – we were the top scorers in Derry, second top scorers in the reserves and an U21 championship.

“Everybody’s basing it on two minutes’ football against Slaughtneil. I saw Dublin playing everybody behind the ball this year, Kerry playing everybody behind the ball when they were five points down – I didn’t see anybody slating them.

“Yes, we used it. If you want to go into the changing room, there’s clippings on the wall. We’ve got a series of tweets that people wrote about us that are on our WhatsApp group. All that was used as motivation.

“It didn’t come from me or the management, the players are self-motivated. We finished with eight U21s and [Michael] McEvoy would have been nine, he’s done his cruciate.

“The future’s bright, but there’s no guaranteeing the future. This is a tough championship to win. The boys deserve all the credit, they’re the ones crossed the line and did the business,” said Cush.

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