In a final of firsts it was Swatragh that came out on top to win their first ever Derry senior hurling title beating Banagher 2-9 to 1-7 in this novel decider between the teams.
From the moment, six minutes into the game, when Ruairi Convery doubled the ball to the net with a superbly timed overhead pull on a Mickey Conway free from the right wing, there was never really much doubt that Swatragh would lift the Fr. Collins Cup for the first time in only their second final.
Banagher may have responded with two converted frees from Shane Farren and one by Gary Stevenson from play in the 17th minute after Chrissy Convery had extended the early Swatragh lead with a point to 1-1 to no score in the 7th minute but such was the level of determination displayed by Davitt’s against a Banagher side that failed to bring the intensity of their semi final win over holders Kevin Lynch’s that there was an inevitability about the outcome.
Twelve minutes from half time Ruairi Convery put Swatragh back in control on the scoreboard with a pointed free.
Moments later Swatragh keeper Conor O’Kane pulled of a stunning save from Oisin McCloskey and P. J. McCloskey followed up with a tame ground shot wide from a few metres.
Those wasted opportunities summed up Banagher’s afternoon as they spurned several scoring chances from frees that, had they been taken, might have given them greater belief when the Swatragh defence was on top of a misfiring Banagher attack.
A minute from half time beat keeper Darrell McDermott from close range with a ground pull as he lost possession close to goal, Swatragh’s 2-4 t0 0-5 interval lead a testament to Swatragh’s opportunism at critical moments.
When it was put to a clearly delighted Swatragh captain amid the celebrations after the game that they had got off to the best possible start in the final he was only too glad to agree.
“To start off the game with a goal is always going to work in your favour. After that Banagher were always going to be playing catch up. After scoring the first goal and leading throughout the game I think that we thoroughly deserve our victory.
“We missed a lot of chances, as did they, and I don’t know what kind of spectacle it was for the spectators but victory was our only goal today. Indeed any kind of result would have been good enough for us. It’s an amazing feeling to come away with a victory.”
Banagher battled hard, and enjoyed a measure of control in the middle of the field midway through the second half, with a penalty goal from Shane Farren in the 50th minute giving them a boost going into the last ten minutes.
Convery reflected on the impact of that score: “We knew that against players of the calibre of Oisin McCloskey and Peter O’Kane at midfield, two of the best players in Ulster, if we could break even, we were in with a shout.
“But then when Shane Farren scored the goal it swung a bit in their favour and though we were four points up we knew that the game was not over at that stage. If they’d have got another goal the game was in the melting pot again. We plugged on and got a couple of scores at the right time.”
Swatragh scorers: Ruairi Convery (1-4, 0-2 frees), Chris Convery (1-1), Michael Kirkpatrick (0-2 ‘65’s’), Sean McNicholl (0-1), Michael Warnock (0-1), Declan McAlary (0-1).
Banagher scorers: Shane Farren (1-2, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees), P.J. McCloskey (0-2), Tiarnan McCloskey (0-1 free), Peter O’Kane (0-1), Oisin McCloskey (0-1).
Conor O’Kane; Niall O’Doherty, Michael Kirkpatrick, Michael Warnock; Seamus Bradley, Seamus McFerran, Conor Quinn; Malachi O’Hagan, Cathal McQuillan; Declan McGuckin, Shamus McQuillan, Michael Conway; Chrissy Convery, Michael McKenna, Ruairi Convery
-Declan McAlary for Shamus McQuillan
Darrell McDermott; Conor Lynch, Sean Marty Lockhart, Darragh McCloskey; Ruairi McCloskey, Sean McCullagh, Mark Lynch; Oisin McCloskey, Peter O’Kane; Owen Biggs, Garry Stevenson, Stefan McCloskey; Tiarnan McCloskey, P. J. McCloskey, Shane Farren
-Gearoid O’Neill for Stefan McCloskey Blood Substitution 7 mins
-Stefan McCloskey for Gearoid O’Neill Blood Substitution Reversal 12 mins
-Gearoid O’Neill for Stefan McCloskey 34 mins
-Gregory Biggs for Owen Biggs 40 mins
-Ciaran Lynch for Gary Stevenson 45 mins