By Paul McIntyre
Magherafelt 1-11 Swatragh 0-10
Holders Magherafelt survived a second half surge from Swatragh to be the first side into this year’s O’Neill’s Sportswear sponsored Derry senior football semi-finals. Adrian Cush’s side looked to be on their way to a comfortable victory at the break as they lead 1-8 to 0-5, but they had to rely on three late scores to seal the win as Enda McGinley’s charges made a real fight of proceedings in the second half.
Páric Sean De Brún was basking in sunshine for this eagerly awaited tie and Magherafelt took no time to settle as they raced into a 0-2 0-0 early lead as the Swatragh defence found it difficult to contain the forward runs of Conor McCloskey and Conor Kearns from half back. Shane Heavron was also causing havoc as he landed three points in the opening fifteen minutes.
Swatragh were finding possession hard to come by and in the 21st minute Heavron converted a penalty for the champions after McCloskey had been dragged down by Conor McAtamney.
Jude McAtamney landed a ‘45’ to keep Swatragh in touch but further points from Ryan Ferris and Heavron gave Magherafelt a deserving six-point lead at half time.
Swatragh rung the changes at half time as the dispensed of their sweeper as they tried to claw their way back onto the contest, and it didn’t take long for the change to take affect as early efforts from James and Francis Kearney cut the arrears down to four.
After dominating midfield in the first half, Magherafelt found it difficult to win primary possession around the middle and with Oisin McWilliams in particular making his presence felt. The young half back landed a might score from near the right touchline as the contest finally reached championship boiling point. That left three between the sides at the water break which came at just the right time for the O’Donovan Rossa.
Magherafelt introduced some fresh legs themselves through Cormac Murphy and Niall Higgins, and they landed a point each after Francis Kearney had cut the gap to two points.
Swatragh tried in vain to grab that elusive score that would bring them back into the contest but the Magherafelt defence stood firm to book a semi-final spot with four points to spare.
Man of the Match: As ever Shane Heavron was their go to man when it came to scores and he finished the day with 1-5 to his name. The winners also had big performances from Ryan Ferris and Conor Kearns while Oisin McWilliams had a great outing for Swatragh. But the award goes to Magherafelt wing back Conor McCloskey who popped everywhere on the pitch. Scored a point was involved in many more and also won the first half penalty after one of his trademark surges deep into the Swatragh half.
Teams & Scorers:
Magherafelt: O. Lynch, S. McErlain, D. O’Neill, G. Lupari, C. McCloskey (0-1), E. Duffin, C. Kearns, D. Hearvon (0-1f), J. Monaghan, P. McLarnon, S. Hearvon (1-5 1-0 pen 2f), J. Young, M. McEvoy, E. McGuckin (0-1), R. Ferris (0-1).
Subs: C. Murphy (0-1) for J. Young (42), A. McElhone for P. McLarnon (48), P. Quinn for G. Lupari (61).
Swatragh: S. McNicholl, D. Dillon, T. Walsh, L. Kearney, B. Diamond, O. McWilliams (0-1), S. M. Quinn, C. McAtamney, N. McAtamney, P. Kearney, J. Kearney (0-3 2f), N. McAtamney, (0-1 45), L. McWilliams, F. Kearney (0-3f), P. McAtamney (0-1).
Subs: M. Friel (0-1 mark) for N. McAtamney (HT), S. F. Quinn for B. Diamond (HT), S. Kearney for L. McWilliams (36).
Referee: Mr Damien Harkin (Slaughtmanus).