It's Glen again. Unstoppable Watty Graham's make it three in-a-row in Derry

Watty Graham's Glen celebrate after completing three in-a-row in Derry. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Watty Graham's Glen celebrate after completing three in-a-row in Derry. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin Watty Graham's Glen celebrate after completing three in-a-row in Derry. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Derry Senior Football Championship final: Watty Graham’s Glen 1-13 O’Donovan Rossa Magherafelt 0-7

GLEN captain Conor Carville spoke proudly of the “lifetime of work” that has gone into his club after he’d accepted the John McLaughlin Cup on behalf of the Derry champions.

It took a lifetime (71 years) for Glen to win a senior county title and they now have three in-a-row thanks to a technically excellent, tactically ruthless performance in the second half that Magherafelt just could not match.

Magherafelt led 0-5 to 0-2 after 20 minutes of the first half but the loss of Odhran Lynch to a hamstring injury he had been carrying for a while derailed them.

It was five apiece at the break and after Cathal Mulholland’s goal early in the second half the result never really looked in doubt.  

“We wouldn’t have been happy with the performance in the first half,” said Glen manager Malachy O’Rourke.

“We had plenty of possession but when we didn’t use it well enough they were able to get possession and they held it and they were able to get runners coming through. That was something we had to look at at half-time and in the second half we were a lot better, we had a lot more urgency all over the field. We lifted our level of performance and that’s what told in the end.”

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The next target for O’Rourke’s men is the defence of their Ulster crown. Their quarter-final against Antrim’s Cargin is a repeat of last year’s provincial semi-final which the Derry champions won 1-10 to 0-8 on the way to a first-ever Ulster title.

“Cargin would feel they were unlucky not to win that game last year,” said O’Rourke.

“It was a tight game and it’s going to be another massive game this year. You have to perform on the day and that’s what we’ll be intending to do. The lads are really hungry, they know these opportunities don’t come around too often and you have to grab them.”

O’Rourke went off to join his rejoicing players in their dressingroom and the Magherafelt camp looked on enviously as the cup was brought in to cheers of delight.

Their dressingroom was a contrast of course and assistant-manager Brian McGuckin emerged from it to tell the O’Donovan Rossa side of the story.

“We were delighted with the first 20-25 minutes,” he said.

“Using Odhran was a massive blow. A lot of our gameplan is built around Odhran from kick-outs and open play so losing him was something we had to deal with. Conor (McLarnon) went in and did reasonably well but they got the upper hand five minutes into the second half and it was a chasing match after that.

“Even though at half-time we were content with where we were, we felt we should have been ahead. Their goal was another massive moment and, typically, when you go three or four points behind against Glen you’re having to take risks and you leave yourself open so the possibility of them going on to win by seven or eight is a reality then.

“We’re very disappointed, we came here to win but we have no complaints at the full-time whistle.”

Magherafelt’s problems began when they lost Ryan Ferris to an injury in the warm-up. Ferris was due to pick up Ciaran McFaul and it was the Derry star who got forward on the left after 40 seconds and cracked over an excellent finish to open the scoring.

Everyone was inside the Glen half as Magherafelt built from one of those ponderous passages of back-and-across handpassing you’d fast-forward through if you were watching on the telly. It ended when referee Benny Quinn spotted an Emmett Bradley foul on his opposite number Dan Higgins and Shea McGuckin stroked over the free.

It was a you-have-the-ball-then-we-have-the-ball affair in the early stages. Possession was king and end-product from it was essential meaning turnovers were golden.

Eunan Mulholland joined the Glen attack to clip over a point but then was denied a goal by a brilliant diving tackle from Conall Herron that picked his pocket just as he was about to bury his shot following a pacey break out of his own half.

Cormac Murphy’s point left it all-square after 10 minutes and Derry full-back Eoin McEvoy (wearing six) pushed up to send Magherafelt into the lead for the first time.  

Their attacking runs came from deep and corner-back Guiseppe Lupari drove into Glen territory and was taken down by Conor Convery. Shane Heavron kicked the free and Magherafelt led 0-4 to 0-2.

At the other end, Shea McGuckin swooped in to clear the danger and Magherafelt, dominating possession, went on another attack.

Paddy McLarnon punched the air in celebration as he kicked his side’s fifth point but Mulholland replied with a score Glen badly needed after Emmet Bradley had salvaged a misplaced kickout. Then, as Derry goalkeeper Lynch limped off with a hamstring injury, Danny Tallon’s free left just one in it (0-5 to 0-4) as half-time approached.

McFaul, the Glen sweeper, nipped in to snuff out a Magherafelt attack and, when the defending champions broke, Mulholland got forward again to score his third point and leave it 0-5 apiece at the break. Parity, after being second best and under the cosh, was a bonus for Glen.

The tension of the final was broken as games of tig and football matches broke out among the joyful kids on the pitch during the interval and ever-popular Marty Morrissey posed for selfies with the fans while he phoned in his half-time report to RTE.

Conor Carville raises the John McLaughlin Cup in triumph. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Conor Carville raises the John McLaughlin Cup in triumph. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin Conor Carville raises the John McLaughlin Cup in triumph. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

The second began when Glass won the throw-in and a patient build-up ended with a Michael Warnock pass to Bradley. Then Glen took control when Ryan Dougan’s high ball led to an almighty goalmouth scramble and Cathal Mulholland poked the ball into the Magherafelt net.

Shea McGuckin replied with a free but another driving run from Warnock forced Ryan Lennox into a foul and Bradley kicked his second of the half.

Bradley rose highest to break down the kick-out and Glen kept the ball and with it control of the game. Jack Doherty’s shot drifted wide but the next Magherafelt kickout also fell into green and gold hands and this time Conleith McGuckian, who got through a ton of work up and down the field, nipped in to edge Glen five ahead (1-8 to 0-6).  

The Heavron brothers both blasted chances wide and the big-game composure of the three in-a-row chasing champions shone through as they kept the ball patiently. Conor Glass’s point meant they held a double-scores lead (1-9 to 0-6) with 10 minutes left.

Shane Heavron pulled one back but then Glen goalkeeper Connlan Bradley ran the length of Celtic Park and immediately restored the six-point gap.

Conor Carville was the fifth member of the Glen defence to score and the result was beyond doubt when Emmett Bradley tapped over his third of a Watty Graham-dominated and Jack Doherty added another for good measure before the final whistle.

Glen: C Bradley (0-1); M Warnock, R Dougan, C Carville (0-1); E Mulholland (0-3), C McFaul (0-1), C Mulholland (1-0); C Glass (0-1), E Bradley (0-3, 0-2 frees); E Doherty, J Doherty (0-1), C Convery; A Doherty, D Tallon (0-1 free), C McGuckian (0-1)

Subs: T Flanagan for C Mulholland (36), J McDermott for Convery (47), S O’Hara for Tallon (60)

Yellow card: Warnock (50)

Magherafelt: O Lynch; S McErlain, J McErlain, G Lupari; C McCluskey, E McEvoy (0-1), C Herron; D Heavron, D Higgins; S McGuckin (0-2 frees), R Lennox, P McLarnon (0-1); C Murphy (0-1), S Heavron (0-2 frees), R Ferris

Subs: C McLarnon for Lynch (26), C Kearns for Walls (36), E McGuckin for Lennox (56), F Duffin for Lupari (57)

Yellow card: J McErlain (60)

Referee: Benny Quinn (Lavey)

Attendance: 5,360