Glenullin crowned back to back Derry Intermediate champions after thrilling victory over Banagher

Glenullin celebrate their Derry Intermediate Football Championship victory over Banagher in Celtic Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)
Glenullin celebrate their Derry Intermediate Football Championship victory over Banagher in Celtic Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Glenullin 1-11, Banagher 1-11

Glenullin are back to back Derry Intermediate Football champions!

Paddy Bradley's team became the first club to retain Derry's Intermediate crown in 24 years thanks to a thrilling extra-time victory over favourites Banagher in Celtic Park on Sunday. Indeed Glenullin are fast becoming the county's great entertainers. Their semi-final victory over Drumsurn was the 'game of the year' and they followed it up with a win that was even more dramatic. Bradley's team just doesn't know they're beaten.

Joint Glenullin captains Traglach Bradley and Neil McNicholl hold the cup aloft after Sunday's Derry Intermediate Final in Celtic Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)
Joint Glenullin captains Traglach Bradley and Neil McNicholl hold the cup aloft after Sunday's Derry Intermediate Final in Celtic Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Banagher will be scratching their head as to how they let the final slip. In control for long periods, St. Mary's conceded 1-01 in injury time, including Neil McNicholl's goal with the last touch, but once Eoin Bradley had fired his penalty into the top corner to get the extra time going, there was no stopping Glenullin.

A team consistently written off last season; a team underestimated again ahead of this final gave their answer on the pitch and became the first Glenullin team to defend a championship title. Enough said!

The early stages were all Banagher, St. Mary's prompted by the distribution of impressive keeper Callum Armstrong, dictating play without ever really translating that dominance to the scoreboard. They did fashion a three point lead within seven minutes but it should have been more.

Gavin O'Neill opened the scoring and was inches away from the opening goal when he surged through to send a low shot off the post. Undeterred, O'Neill then doubled Banagher's lead before Callum O'Kane made it three with only seven minutes gone.

At that stage Glenullin were struggling for a foothold but three points in as many minutes changed the complexion of the final. Central to that was Neil McNicholl's emergence as a presence. First the midfielder powered through on a superb ninth minute solo run only to see his fierce shot come back off the Banagher post.

The chance may have gone but it kickstarted Glenullin and three points in four minutes had the game level as McNicholl and two Eoin Bradley frees wiped out all Banagher's good early work by the end of the opening quarter.

But Banagher never panicked and 20 minutes after their last score Tiarnan Moore got them ticking again. And, on 28 minutes, Banagher got the goal they had been threatening as Tiarnan Moore played in Mark Lynch who rolled back the years with a brilliant high finish high for 1-04 to 0-3. Neil McNicholl and Moore swapped points but 1-05 to 0-4 was just about right as the teams went into the break.

The second half was a tale of Banagher control but a failure to go for the jugular meant that when Glenullin brought the chaos in that frantic finale, St. Mary’s were still within touching distance. And it's not like they didn't have warnings. Twice Eoin Devine came to his side's rescue with brilliant blocks to deny Glenullin the goal they need to re-ignite their hopes.

Banagher, with O'Neill grabbing his third point from play and Peter Hagan scoring a lovely effort, were keeping Glenullin at arm's length but they also hit six second half wides and were generally wasteful.

That came back to haunt them when, with Glenullin's Cormac Hasson and Banagher's Ruairi Quirk off on black cards, Glenullin brought it back to 1-08 to 0-8 on 63 minutes. Hail Mary time! In came the floated ball and amid a swarm of bodies, Neil McNicholl stretched highest to touch the ball over the line with what could have been his head! It didn't matter, there wasn't even time to restart!

And the drama didn't stop there. Within one minute of extra-time starting, 'Skinner' was picking out Ryan McNicholl with a great cross-field ball. McNicholl then fed a ball in which became a race between Banagher keeper Armstrong and Adam Mullan. Mullan won it, touched the ball forward and was caught by Armstrong. Penalty!

The collision saw both players being forced off injured but when the dust settled, up stepped 'Skinner' Bradley to nonchalantly find the top corner like it was a practise kick in training. The pendulum had swung.

As Donal O'Kane tagged on a point. Tiarnan Moore responded but at the break in extra-time Glenullin led 2-09 to 1-09.

The second period saw Moore and O'Neill bring it back to the minimum but Glenullin responded as champions do with sub Fearghal Close and 'Skinner' restoring the three point advantage.

Then came Banagher's chance. An almighty scramble saw the ball eventually break to Tiarnan Moore only yards from goal. There were bodies everywhere but a goal looked certain as Moore took aim until, from nowhere, Eunan Boylan appeared to brilliantly dive and block the shot. His celebration told you it was a match winning moment.

It prompted a reaction from Peter Hagan that brought the Banagher man a red card but that was academic. Glenullin had defied the odds again, and done it in style.

Banagher scorers: Mark Lynch (1-0), Gavin O'Neill (0-4), Callum O'Kane (0-2), Tiarnan Moore (0-4, 2f), Peter Hagan (0-1),

Glenullin scorers: Neil McNicholl (1-2, 1f), Eoin Bradley (1-6, 3f, 1 '45'), Conor Rafferty (0-1), Donal O'Kane (0-1), Fearghal Close (0-1),

Banagher: Callum Armstrong, Darragh McCloskey, Keelan O'Kane, Cathair McGilligan, Eoin Devine, Gavin O'Neill, Eamon Og Feeney, Brian Og McGilligan, Callum O'Kane, Ciaran Lynch, Mark Lynch Ruairi Quirk, Peter Hagan, NIall Moore, Tiarnan Moore. (Subs) Bryan O'Kane for C Lynch, 36mins; Liam Eoin Campbell for N Moore, 50mins; Gabriel Farren for C O'Kane, 55mins; Niall Moore for C Armstrong (inj), 7mins (ET);

Glenullin: Niall O'Kane, Daniel O'Kane, Eunan O'Kane, Diarmuid McNicholl, Cormac Hasson, John O'Kane, Conor Rafferty, Traglach Bradley, Neill McNicholl, Cathal Hasson, Ryan McNicholl, Christopher Dempsey, Eunan Boylan, Eoin Bradley, Ronan Close. (Subs) Adam Mullan for R Quirk, 37mins; Donal O'Kane for R Close, 37mins; Paul Rafferty for C Hasson, 46mins; Fearghal Close for A Mullan, 11mins (ET);

Referee: Barry Cassidy