Eoghan Rua reversed last season’s opening day League defeat against Magherafelt as they travelled to and beat the Rossas outfit 0-10 to 1-4 with an energetic and hard working display in difficult conditions.
In blustery and heavy underfoot conditions the Coleraine men were full value for their narrow win and had they taken all of their chances it would have been a lot more comfortable than it was. Twice in the opening minutes they spurned goal chances while they shot five first half wides all from scoreable positions. Their win however was built on a very solid defensive performance which kept a vaunted Magherfelt attack very much under wraps.
Magherafelt will have been disappointed that the likes of Emmett McGuckin and Christopher Spiers, who terrorised defences last year, were kept in check for the most part by a hard working defensive effort by Eoghan Rua. Their win was all the more creditable as they lost Barry McGoldrick, who started at full back marking county colleague Emmett McGuckin, to injury after just nine minutes. Watching county senior football manager Brian McIver will also have been disappointed to see McGoldrick limp off with what seemed to be a recurrence of a calf injury that had kept him sidelined from Derry duty for the last few weeks. With Stephen Coyles coming in for McGoldrick and moving into the forward line a number of positional switches were made but crucially Ciaran Mullan’s move from the corner to full back to pick up McGuckin seen him do a superb job in keeping the bustling county man fairly quiet throughout the remainder of the game.
The home side got off to super start with a point straight after the throw-in as with two quick passes the ball was with Shane Heavron and he clipped it over the bar, little more than 10 seconds on the clock. Eoghan Rua responded well however as they had the next couple of attacks, but twice Magherafelt goalkeeper Niall Convery denied the visitors goals with good saves. First he got down smartly to a Ciaran McGoldrick effort low at the near post in the second minute. Then just a minute later he denied the raiding defender Ciaran Mullan with a carbon copy save.
Four minutes in Liam McGoldrick got Eoghan Rua onto the scoreboard with a point from a ‘45’. The visitors then had a couple of chances to take the lead but Ciaran McGoldrick was wide from a free while Anton Rafferty also sent wide after getting forward into a good position. Then in the 9th minute Barry McGoldrick left the field with his injury and two minutes later Magherafelt struck for the only goal of the game. In truth it was a bit of a gift as first Ryan McGeough saved well and then in an attempt to pass the ball he let it slip into the path of a grateful Emmett McGuckin who had the easy task of palming to the net from just a couple of yards out.
The sides then traded a couple of wides each as the first quarter came to an end. In the 19th minute Ciaran McGoldrick pointed a close in free. The visitors then spurned another chance for a goal as Stephen Coyles over hit his pass to Colm McGoldrick who would have been clear to test the Magherafelt goalkeeper. Eoghan Rua spurned yet another chance for a point from 30m free before Ciaran Lenehan finished off a good move to leave one between the sides two minutes from the end of the half. A flurry of scores in the last couple of minutes of the half, all well worked and clinically executed, seen Magherafelt extend their lead with a fine Joe Keenan point before Eoghan Rua hit back to draw level. Twice Eoghan Rua moved the ball quickly forward from deep in defence to the scoring zone from round the ‘D’ where Ciaran McGoldrick and then Richard Carey finished neatly, the sides all square at the break 1-2 to 0-5.
Magherafelt had the aid of the blustery wind in the second half but it was the visitors who took an early lead as the hard working Declan Mullan finished off a move that had its genesis deep in the Eoghan Rua defence as Mark McTaggart broke up an attack. Magherafelt were soon level though as for once Emmett McGuckin shook of the shackles of Ciaran Mullan to cut in from a tight angle and point. Eoghan Rua then went on to hold the home side scoreless between the 39th and 50th minutes while adding three unanswered points of their own. Aidan Mullan curled one over from the right, Ciaran McGoldrick pointed a free, made easier after a bit of backchat and then Conor Carey did well to steer over despite close attention in a ruck of players, the visitors 0-9 to 1-3 ahead going into the last quarter.
The heavy underfoot conditions were not making life easy for either side but the visitors seemed to be working harder than the home side and over the closing minutes that willingness to put in the tackles and close off space paid dividends. After Magherafelt got a point back through Connor Kearns Eoghan Rua worked extremely hard from the midfield back and held the home side scoreless for the rest of the game. Colm McGoldrick extended Eoghan Rua’s lead to four going into the last five minutes and with just a couple of minutes on the clock Christopher Spiers, who had been kept fairly quiet and scoreless, seen his shot from a tight angle whizz past the far post. The visitors held on to record a good win on the road and get their league campaign off to a positive start.