Kilrea 0-06, Doire Trasna 0-05
When you've a 'last kick of the game free' to win a minor county final, an All Ireland winning All Star midfielder can be handy. Step forward Tommy Rogers - the main reason the Carlin Duffy Cup is heading back over the Glenshane with Kilrea after a tense decider at Claudy on Saturday.
Rogers broke the hearts of a talented, hard working Doire Trasna who never quite hit top gear, giving truth to the old adage of there being only a kick of the ball between two teams by planting a 35m free between the posts in the third minute of injury time. There wasn't even time to restart!
The free capped a match winning performance. The county man was largely well marshalled by the impressive Ronan Quigley but his contribution still decided the final with one from play, four frees and one audacious sideline ball enough to get his team over the line.
The late twist was cruel on a a Trasna team who led 0-4 to 0-1 at the break in a game littered with 'what if' moments for the city side, who were missing the suspended Somhairle McFadden. What if a couple of seven first half wides had found their target? What if referee Cianan Canney had held off awarding Trasna a first half free just seconds before Leighton Schulberg slammed the ball into the net? What if forward Jack McCarron had managed to stretch his leg just a few more inches to force the ball over the line early in the second period? What if, what if, what if . . . It was that sort of day for the Top of the Hill men.
The contrast of emotions at the end illustrated how cruel sport can be but Kilrea had done just enough. The game, played in very difficult underfoot conditions, was far from a classic but finals are about winning, not entertaining.
Rogers served notice of his threat by winning the throw in and firing over a superb point only 14 seconds into the game but it would be Kilrea's last score until the opening minute of the second half.
In between Trasna, took control. Two Oran Donnelly frees and one from the impressive Conor O'Donnell had the city Pearses 0-3 to 0-1 up against their county counterparts. A Leighton Schulberg free was Trasna's fourth point but it should've been more. The free was awarded for a foul on Donnelly as he drove forward but he had still managed to get his shot away. Kilrea keeper Conall Cassidy saved it but Schulberg followed up to smash the rebound to the net, just seconds after the referee whistled. It meant Trasna's lead was only three at the break.
With the elements now at their backs, Kilrea came out second half half intent on reeling Trasna in and set about their task with a Rogers' free inside the opening minute. Trasna responded through a wonderful O'Donnell solo effort just 60 seconds later but that would be Trasna's final score of the game. However, just minutes later the unfortunate McCarron was inches from finding the net but the young forward couldn't quite stretch his leg far enough to make sufficient contact as he fell backwards with Cassidy out of his goal.
Kilrea introduced Conor O'Kane as slowly the south Derry men wrestled control back. On 43 minutes Rogers was dragged down and sent the subsequent free over while six minutes later they almost found the net when lively forward Sean Walsh freed himself with a clever turn but fired his low shot across goal and just wide. There was a consolation however when play was brought back for a pull on Wash and Rogers tapped over, meaning it was a one point game at 0-5 to 0-4 with 10 minutes to go.
The game was in the mix and both sides were understandably showing signs of fatigue, well everyone except Rogers. And when his team won a sideline ball around 50m from goal the point that followed was worth the entrance money alone. It was breathtaking. Trasna had legitimate concerns about the Rogers having broken the sideline but a score like that didn't deserve to be ruled out on a technicality!
With the final tied and the clock hitting 60 minutes, Trasna lost the hard working Donnelly to a second booking as he chased back but they looked to have held on for extra-time until Kilrea's late, late break. Walsh appeared to have lost possession but referee Canney decided that was because he had been fouled. Rogers lined up the free and kicked to Kilrea victory.
The scenes at the whistle highlighted what it meant to both; Kilrea jubilant, Trasna disconsolate but both teams had shown enough potential to suggest this may not be their last trip to a final.
Doire Trasna scorers: Oran Donnelly (0-2, 2f), Conor O'Donnell (0-2), Leighton Schulberg (0-1, 1f)
Kilrea scorers: Tommy Rogers (0-6, 5f)
Doire Trasna: Flynn Doherty, Lorcan Doherty, Damien McGuinness, Fionn O'Neill, Cathan Duffy, Conor O'Donnell, Nyech McKinney-O'Doherty, Matthew James, Ronan Quigley, Liam Wilson, Oran Donnelly, Lewis Dobbins, Leighton Schulberg, Jack McCarron, Tiernan Flynn. (Subs) Dylan McLaughlin for F Doherty, HT; Thomas Dobbins for D McLaughlin, 57mins; Dara McDaid for J McCarron, 57mins; Jason Arbuckle, Anshul Bhengra, Sean Bradley, Shaun Gillespie, Declan McCay, Liam Travers, Conor Morris, Emmett O'Neill.
Kilrea: Conall Cassidy, Liam Casey, Declan Oliver, Killian Quigg, Diarmuid Bradley, Jarlath McTaggart, Shea Ferris, Tommy Rogers, Rory Nelson, Anthony McGill, Louis McCormack, Caodhan Quigg, Joey Dallat, Sean Walsh, Fionn O'Kane. (Subs) Conor O'Kane for C Quigg, 38mins; Fiachra McGill for F O'Kane, 55mins; Evan Bradley, Oran Clarke; Caodhan Glendinning; Dara Lavery, Joe Marshall, Luke McAllister, Patrick McCloskey, Tom McKiernan, Isaac O'Kane.
Referee: Cianan Canney.