Championship football is all about taking your chances when the opportunity arises; back in 2010 Eoghan Rua, Coleraine all but took every one that arose and went on to win the John McLaughlin Cup for the first time.
In last week’s second round Derry senior championship qualifier against Dungiven under lights in Celtic Park they twice battled back from five point deficits to level matters going into the last two minutes of normal time at 2-6 to 1-9. Dungiven then edged ahead again with a point but Eoghan Rua then virtually camped in the Dungiven half as they searched for a winner or at least an equaliser to send the game into extra time. They had chances; a guilt edged goal one included in those dramatic closing minutes but a combination of last ditch Dungiven defending and wayward finishing seen them miss a great opportunity to advance to a quarter-final against Ballinderry.
Dungiven made the better start despite Eoghan Rua going ahead with a point from a free, Ciaran McGoldrick the scorer inside the opening minute. The eventual winners raced into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead in the opening quarter their sharpness and movement causing all sorts of bother for the Eoghan Rua defence. They were helped to a great extent by the accuracy of Daryl O’Kane from frees; he scored four a couple from very tight angles. In the 20th minute a Eoghan Rua had a goal chance when a Hugh Casey pass put Mark McTaggart through but his shot was easily dealt with with by Dungiven goalkeeper Sean McNiholl.
Eoghan Rua eventually got back on the scoring trail almost twenty minutes after their first score as Ciaran McGoldrick again pointed a free. Moments after that score Dungiven put together another sweeping move with Donal McGilligan finishing in style to restore their five point lead, 0-7 to 0-2. Dungiven had dominated proceedings for most of the half but Eoghan Rua got right back into contention in the last five minutes. Conor Carey did well to find Colm McGoldrick who fired over a point and then just a minute from the end of the half Niall Holly’s long ball in to the edge of the Dungiven ‘square’ was punched to the net by Colm McGoldrick. Buoyed by that score Eoghan Rua were quickly on the attack again as Richard Carey combined with Mark McTaggart for the former to send a scorching shot just over the bar. Despite being under the cosh for most of the first half Eoghan Rua went in all square at the break, 1-4 to 0-7 the score. By the end of the third quarter the deadly accurate Daryl O’Kane punished yet another indiscretion to put Dungiven five clear, 1-9 to 1-4, yet again.
The start of the second half was virtually a mirror image of the first as Dungiven re-established their dominance. Daryl O’Kane edged them ahead with a point from a free and just six minutes in the Eoghan Rua defence failed to deal with a high hopeful ball into their ‘square’, Kevin Johnston palming the loose ball to the net from close range.
It really was only in the final quarter that Eoghan Rua really went after the game and pushed further up the field, a couple of personnel changes and moving Barry and Sean Leo McGoldrick into more advanced positions gave them the momentum they needed. Ciaran McGoldrick pointed a free then Barry McGoldrick fired over a tremendous point following a more incisive move going into the last five minutes. Paul Murphy missed a good chance from a free to put Dungiven further ahead and then two minutes from the end the Coleraine pressure was rewarded when Declan Mullan palmed to the net from close range, suddenly the sides were level.
The momentum relly was with the Eoghan Rua men at this stage but again a defensive lapse would cost them dear. They allowed James McNicholl to run virtually unmolested down the right side and to be fair he did take on a massive effort from a tight angle to fire over what turned out to be the winning score. The last few minutes will haunt Eoghan Rua over the rest of the season as they passed up a number of chances to get something from the game.
Too many players passed up the responsibility to take a shot when within scoring range, opting instead to pass the ball on to a player wider out and in a less favourable position to score. While Dungiven dominated long passages of this game and probably deserved to win in the end the reality was that had Eoghan Rua taken just one of the chances they created in the closing minutes the result could well have been very different.
Eoghan Rua: Ryan McGeough; Ciaran Lagan, Ciaran Mullan, Sean McWilliams; Ciaran Lenehan, Sean Leo McGoldrick, Mark McTaggart; Barry McGoldrick, Niall Holly; Declan Mullan, Ciaran McGoldrick, Hugh Casey; Richard Carey, Colm McGoldrick, Conor Carey.
Substitutes used: Mark Mearns for C Lagan, Kieran Lagan for Conor Carey, Anton Rafferty for Ciaran Lenehan.
Eoghan Rua scorers: Colm McGoldrick (1-1), Declan Mullan (1-0), Ciaran McGoldrick (0- 3, 0-2 frees), Richard Carey (0-1), Barry McGoldrick (0-1).