Eoghan Rua Coleraine enjoyed a super Saturday of success last weekend when they annexed two trophies within a couple of hours of each other.
In the early afternoon the senior hurlers won the Derry reserve hurling title beating Na Magha 4-12 to 4-9 in a cracking game in Dungiven. Then supporters of the club travelled just five miles down the road to Drumsurn where the Under-13 footballers won the Elite Fitness & Performance sponsored Derry ‘B’title by beating neighbours Glenullin 6-5 to 0-5 in another entertaining game.
The good sized crowd in Dungiven were treated to a hugely entertaining hurling game where Eoghan Rua just came out on top by three points despite holding a twelve point lead, 3-5 to 0-2 after twenty minutes. Indeed they twice lead by nine early in the second half but Na Magha gamely clung on and a goal in the first of two minutes of added time left the city side just the puck of a ball away from forcing extra time. However Eoghan Rua just held on and they had to defend a last ditch attack from the city side to see them lift the cup in a close run game.
When it was suggested to Eoghan Rua manager Padraig O’Mianain that they had made life difficult for themselves, particularly in the second half after squandering commanding leads he readily agreed. “It looked as if we had the game won on several occasions, we led by twelve in the first half and then by nine a couple of times in the second half but we kept conceding goals. They may think that they conceded soft goals but a couple of theirs were sloppy enough from our perspective, going through a crowd of bodies on the line.
“But fair play to them they were twice nine points down in the second half and they came back strongly in to put us to the pin of our collar right up to the last whistle. We always looked like we were in control of the game in the second half but if you don’t register your superiority on the scoreboard it can come back and bite you and to be fair it nearly did but the lads defended well in injury time to hold out and I am really delighted for them.”
The ploy of taking Sean Leo McGoldrick, who nominally started at corner forward for Eoghan Rua, back as a sweeper worked a treat as he spent most of the game in a defensive role, his covering, anticipation and tackling making life very difficult for the Na Magha attack for much of the game. Meanwhile the two man full forward line with the half forwards withdrawn created an ocean of space for the pace of Ciaran McGoldrick and the power of Colm McGoldrick to exploit. The latter did it in spades as he blasted in three goals in the opening quarter as Eoghan Rua raced into a 3-5 to 0-2 lead by the 20th minute. To be fair the two McGoldricks were getting quality angled ball into them in that opening period but they did finish off their chances brilliantly with power and precision.
Na Magha did come back into the game over the last ten minutes or so of the first half, a Declan Foley goal from a close-in free keeping them just in touch at the break 3-5 to 1-4. The sides exchanged a couple of points each early in the second half but two points in as many minutes from Colm McGoldrick had Eoghan Rua nine clear, 3-10 to 1-6, ten minutes into the second half and seemingly well on the way to a comfortable victory.
However by the end of the third quarter Na Magha were clinging on as a second Declan Foley goal left just six between the sides. Another Colm McGoldrick point added to Eoghan Rua’s advantage but then six minutes from the end of normal time Foley collected a sideline cut from Brendan Quigley to blast to the Coleraine net leaving just four between the sides, Eoghan Rua ahead 3-11 to 3-7.
The sides then exchanged points but the eventual winners’ anxiety seemed to have been lifted when Ciaran McGoldrick blasted in a rebound from close range to stretch Eoghan Rua’s lead to seven two minutes from the end. Huge credit must be given to Na Magha as they refused to go away, Alan Grant landed a huge point from the middle of the field and then in the first minute of added time Declan Foley completed his hat-trick of goals to leave just three, the puck of a ball between the teams and still some second on the clock.
The city side pressed forward and won a side-line cut on the left side, twice they had created goals from such a situation and it really was a nervy time for the Eoghan Rua support. This time however the cut in was not as well executed as the previus two efforts and the Eoghan Rua defence cleared their lines with the final whistle sounding to the delight of the Eoghan Rua support and manager Padraig O’Mianain who was full of praise for his team immediately after the game.
The former Na Magha player said: “We have been working at hurling for seventeen years or so here at Eoghan Rua and we have some very good players. Anton Rafferty, our captain, was absent from this game as he broke his thumb in the semi final, and he has been playing senior hurling for Derry for a number of years.
“We may be a junior club but we firmly believe that we have players who are not junior players. To be perfectly honest there are a number of players who would grace most county panels. The problem for them I suppose is that they don’t get the exposure. As a hurling coach it breaks my heart that those players don’t get the chance to play hurling at a higher level. It’s not that they don’t want to play but that at times they have other commitments.”
Of course there has been a great rivalry built up between the two ‘urban clubs’ over the past few years and the Eoghan Rua manager has a unique insight as he is a former Na Magha player himself and when it was put to him that he would know exactly how they felt on this occasion. “Of course I do, Na Magha are my own club. I left them some years back and came up to Coleraine.
“I know they are in the Ulster junior final and that might have been a bit of a distraction for them given the final is next weekend, it’s not nice to beat them but we too thought that we might have been looking forward to an Ulster final ourselves and to be honest we as a club were disappointed that we were not put into Ulster this year.
“Still Na Magha have come on a lot and they have three players playing regular county hurling. We had to pull out a big game there today. While I was concerned about conceding the goals the overall attitude and application of the players was very good and I’m absolutely delighted that we held on for this win.”