Matt finish gets the party started for Lamh Dhearg
Ulster MFC final
Hannahstown Lamh Dhearg are Northern Bank Ulster Club Minor Football Champions after a battling 0-9 to 0-8 win over Magherafelt in Saturday's final, at St Paul's in Belfast.
The Antrim champions clinched success with an injury time point by Matthew Murray — a fairytale ending to the Red Hands’ first attempt at the title.
Lamh Dhearg weren't tipped to overcome the preliminary round when they were drawn against holders Omagh St Enda's.
In fact, it was in that game that the new champions flashed signals that they meant business as they dumped the holders out of the competition in emphatic style.
“We weren't afraid of Omagh, and winning that game certainly gave us confidence,” recalls winning captain Declan Stranney who also collected the Ann Maria Donnelly Award as Man of the Match.
The final was a drum tight battle on a frosty, slippery pitch with both teams giving everything they had in their pursuit of victory. Magherafelt will bemoan the fact that they had chances to win the Jimmy McConville Cup but twice missed the target in the closing minutes.
They will also reflect on the fact that they were dealt severe blows in the days before the game after losing both Stephen Lagan and Anton McElhone, who hit home 2-2 in the semi-final win over Kilcoo. Lagan was suffering with appendicitis while McElhone broke his wrist at work.
Scores were scarce in the opening half with the sides level three times and Lamh Dhearg ahead by 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval.
That was thanks to 'keeper Gerard McKeown who brought off a super save, at the base of his post, in the sixth minute.
The winners took control of the action during the third quarter to move 0-8 to 0-5 ahead by the 38th minute but suddenly their sharp attacks dried up.
They didn't score again for 25 minutes while Magherafelt took command around midfield.
A Chris Spiers free and Conor Kearns narrowed the gap and when Spiers again sent over a point, from another dead-ball situation, the teams were level again on 55 minutes.
However, two further chances of edging in front were missed by the Derry champions and, three minutes into injury time, substitute Matthew Murray popped up to rifle over the winner for Lamh Dhearg.
LAMH DHEARG: G. McKeown; C Monaghan, A McAufield, C McIlvenney; M McGarry (0-1), D Stranney, M Hynes (0-1); D Lynch, S Tully; J Lindsay, G Strain, M Jordan; R Murray (0-4, 3f), M McKiernan (0-1), M Lappin (0-1). Subs: M Murray (0-1) for Jordan (38), K Quinn for Lappin (46).
MAGHERAFELT: C McLarnon; P O'Kane, P Quinn, P Kielt; N Higgins, M Kerr, F Duffin (0-1); B Atchinson, P McErlain; F Quinn, S McGuckin, C Kearns (0-4, 2f); E McLaughlin, S Heavron, C Spiers (0-3, 3f). Subs: P McCusker for Heavron (Half-time), C Rafferty for Kielt (53), R Ferris for Kerr (58).
Referee: J White (Donegal).