The future looks bright for Burren after classy Ulster Minor success
Burren 4-8 Kilrea 3-5
The glory days could be about to return for Burren following their deserved 4-8 to 3-5 Ulster Minor Club final win over Kilrea at the St Paul's complex on Shaw's Road, Belfast yesterday.
The Down side, who had recorded a 20-point winning margin against Enniskillen Gaels in their semi-final tie, found the going a lot tougher on this occasion because of the tenacity, resilience and courage their Derry opponents displayed.
Indeed, when Larry Kielt converted a free to leave just three points between the teams at 3-8 to 3-5 entering the last quarter, it seemed as if Kilrea might pull the match out of the fire having been in their opponents' slipstream until then.
But a late goal from a Liam Kerr penalty sealed Burren's win and triggered visions of the huge successes achieved by the club in the 1980s being replicated.
The team's feet, though, remain firmly on the ground - thanks to manager Niall Coulter.
"While this win means that the club has now ticked all the boxes in terms of winning Ulster trophies at different levels, we know that much bigger challenges lie ahead," declared Coulter.
"Having said that, it's great to get this win. We knew going into the match that Kilrea would be very tough opponents because of the way they had been playing in the competition to date against quality opposition so we knew that we were going to have to dig really deep if we wanted to come out on top.
"I am just delighted with the way the lads met the challenge."
A spectacular Ruairi Maguire goal in the opening 10 minutes appeared to have ignited Kilrea but a brace of goals from Shay Murdock, whose hunger for the ball and work-rate continually unhinged the Kilrea defence, before half-time ensured that Burren enjoyed a 3-5 to 2-3 lead at that juncture.
Yet the Down side looked to have encountered a handicap when the lively Aaron Laverty was shown a black card, but his replacement Ruairi Dalton proved to be more than adequate.
A Daithi McLaughlin goal helped to underpin Kilrea for a spell but there was always the feeling that Burren's physical power and stamina as well as their penchant for snatching goals might prove decisive.
This was to be the case in the last 10 minutes in particular when Coulter's boys held firm and resisted a series of Kilrea forays in an exciting finish.
The Burren centre-half-back Conor Cox was voted the player of the match and he received his special award after the game had finished as the cup celebrations commenced.
Yet those celebrations were nonetheless tinged with sadness and somewhat muted as the team dedicated their win to the memory of the late Danny Murphy, a Burren legend and inspirational former Ulster Council secretary who passed away last month.
Burren scorers: S Murdock 2-1, L Kerr 1-1, R Fegan 0-3 (2f), C McCartan 1-0, C Cox, S Fitzpatrick, D Murdock 0-1 each.
Kilrea scorers: P Quigg 1-3 (2f), D McLaughlin, R Maguire 1-0 each, L Kielt 0-2 (1f).
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg).