Glen thrilled to be in first Derry SFC Final after edging Slaughtneil
Derry SFC semi-final: Watty Graham’s, Glen 3-7 Robert Emmet’s, Slaughtneil 1-11
TEARS and laughter greeted this massive victory for Glen, Maghera. The tears fell into the huge beard of one old man, who could barely speak as he congratulated
Ciaran McFaul on an amazing performance, personally and as a team.
Laughter was on the faces of many, but notably new Derry boss Rory Gallagher, grinning at the prospect of having Slaughtneil’s stars for the National Football League – and, no doubt, working with more of the talented Watty Graham’s youngsters.
There’s still a final to be won, against another club desperate to get their hands on the John McLaughlin Cup – Magherafelt. The O’Donovan Rossa men are in their club’s first final for 36 years, seeking a first triumph since 1978.
For Glen, though, it’s a first senior final. Ever.
It’s also a first senior season in charge for Jude Donnelly, and his next managerial task will be to calm down the euphoria and expectation evident from the pitch invasion which followed Barry Cassidy’s last whistle.
“It means a wild lot to the club, it really does,” he acknowledged. “We’ll let them enjoy the night but it’s very important that they come down to earth and get back at it.
“Look, nothing’s won yet. Magherafelt’s in the same boat, their first final for 36 years. This team knows it’ll be another battle, we’ll need the same performance and better if we’re going to win a county championship.
“We’ve a lot of things to fix – but we’ll look forward to the final.”
Donnelly paid tribute to his predecessor for the work done in developing the players so far. “The work has been done with these boys in recent years by Enda Gormley – I’ve been very lucky, myself, Paddy Murray, and Stephen Murtagh, to take the job on from end. The team was in a great place and we’re just lucky that we’re seeing the benefit now.”
The fact that they’re in the even better place of the Derry decider was in part due to denying Slaughtneil a second goal with two late goal-line clearances, from ¬the outstanding McFaul and Emmet Bradley.
“That was clean mad,” said Donnelly. “We could have won by 10 points, but we could easily have lost the game.
“I thought our defending in the last 10 minutes was incredible – Slaughtneil had two chances and we cleared them off the line.”
Yet he insisted he had not doubted that his team would win: “It was a great performance. We felt we should have been going in at half-time four points up but Slaughtneil is never beat.
“But, look, in that changing room at half-time there was only going to be one winner. That team was just ready for a fight and that’s what they gave us in the second half, to a man.”
Victory came because of their goal power, with Emmet Bradley netting at the start of the second period to add to first half strikes from Cathal Mulholland and Jack Doherty.
“We’d talked about it in training: I’d said to beat Slaughtneil we’d have to hit the net twice, or maybe three times. To do that, you need pace to break them down.
“Slaughtneil probably felt it in their legs with seven or eight boys playing in the hurling game [Derry SHC Final] the week before. We were fresh going into the game. Glen is a great running team, there’s no better team in the county at running the ball, and they were superb.”
The Maghera lads were probably knackered too afterwards, but if the Glen players struggled to get through the traffic that still clogged Dungiven long after the long whistle, they could have walked home on air.