It was always going to come down to fine margins and by the finest margin of all, a single point, Slaughtneil just edged past Eoghan Rua.
The Coleraine side were agonisingly close to upsetting the odds with a powerful second half performance that came up just short.
They only really seemed to spark into life after they fell five points behind, 1-5 to 0-3 after conceding the only goal of the game ten minutes into the second half.
It had been a very cagey affair all the way but after the goal Eoghan Rua really did tear into the eventual winners. By the 50th minute only two points separated the sides as Eoghan Rua fired over four points in a row, the score now 1-6 to 0-7, a huge comeback now looking likely.
Slaughtneil steadied the ship with a Paul Bradley pont in the 53rd minute but it was back to two again when Ciaran Lenehan’s goal bound shot was palmed over the bar by Slaughtneil goalkeeper Antoin McMullan. In a frenetic finish both sides had men sent off on black cards, Ciaran Lagan for Coleraine while Slaughtneil substitute Shane McGuigan also got the line in the 60th minute.
In added time Conor Carey reduced the gap to the minimum with a point from a tight angle. Eoghan Rua needed to win the kick out to launch an attack and it seemed they had and drawn a free with the referee pointing towards the Slaugtneil goal, but he quickly signalled the free was the other way. With the ball played forward safely the final whistle sounded and Slaughtneil had just held on to their crown, Eoghan Rua’s brave fightback jus coming up short.
A huge effort by Slaughtneil winning back to back football and hurling doubles in Derry. Indeed the Slaugtneil club completed a superb ‘treble’ of Derry championship titles on Sunday when their camogs won their championship final beating Swatragh.
The first score did not arrive until the fifth minute. Eoghan Rua’s first attack of substance a fine Stephen Coyles pass gave Colm McGoldrick a slight advantage to win out front shake off his marker and fire over the bar. Bothe sides wasted opportunities before Slaughtneil grabbed the initiative with three points in as many minutes. After a patient build-up Ronan Bradley found space to clip over the leveller. Then two points, both from frees Paul Bradley and Padrig Kelly scoring had Slaughtneil ahead.
It was Eoghan Rua’s turn to hit back with a double strike, Barry McGoldrick from a long range free following a foul on Niall Holly while Gavin McWilliams swung over a superb equaliser in the 17th minute. Slaughtneil almost had a goal in the 20th minute when corner back Francis McEldowney stole forward to fire in a shot that came off the bar, they did get something from the attack as they won another free which was converted by Paul Bradley. It was not pretty with both teams giving away turnover ball but a combination of good defending and some wayward finishing kept the scoring low.
The second half opened up into a more offensive game mainly due to Eoghan Rua’s need to claw back a big deficit following the Slaughtneil goal. After missing a series of chances early in the half Slaughtneil made the decisive move for glory.
Paul Bradley pointed a free but then ten minutes in he was going for another point from a free but the ball was dropping short, the Eoghan Rua defence waited only for Sé McGuigan to nip in and punch to the net. Christopher Bradley added another point for a 1-6 to 0-3 lead, with just over a quarter of an hour left.
Eoghan Rua then enjoyed their best spell of the game as they threw caution to the wind and pushed hard up on the Slaughtneil defence. They found plenty of joy as they punched some holes and were rewarded with four unanswered points in a row to bring the final alive again.
Colm McGoldrick twice pointed frees while Sean Leo McGoldrick and Stephen Coyles steered over two more from play, Eoghan Rua now on top. It took a Paul Bradley point to settle the champions before Eoghan Rua were on the attack again. Liam McGoldrick placed Ciaran Lenehan in for a goal attempt but the ball whizzed over the bar, it was back to two again at 1-7 to 0-8.
In a hectic finish Barry McGoldrick sent wide from a long range free and then was inexplicably denied another free just 40m out when hauled down a ‘hop ball’ awarded instead.
In added time Conor Carey brought in back to a one point game but the kick out was won by Slaughtneil and seconds later it was all over, the champions had retained their crown, Eoghan Rua’s comeback just coming up short.