Derry's true grit to lift cup is added bonus for Brian McIver
Derry 2-16 Armagh 2-15 (After extra-time): A glint of pre-Christmas silverware may be evident today from the Derry trophy cabinet but manager Brian McIver's real satisfaction lies in the fact that a productive O'Fiaich Cup competition has yielded a fresh raft of talent in advance of the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup and the Allianz League.
"We have had a good chance to assess some 35 players and at this stage it was much better to monitor them in a competitive environment rather than in challenge games and training sessions," observed McIver after his team had squeezed to a one-point extra-time victory over Armagh in yesterday's decider at Oliver Plunkett Park, Crossmaglen.
The Oak Leaf boss, whose team won promotion to Division One of the league before flattering to deceive in the championship this year, is strongly focused on bringing Derry more success in 2014.
"We have had four good matches in the O'Fiaich Cup and while the fact that we have now won the competition is a bonus, the real benefit lies in having accrued additional knowledge about individual players," said McIver.
His side may have enjoyed a nine-point win over Armagh on Wednesday night but there was never any hint that they would freewheel to victory yesterday.
The sides were level on no fewer than six occasions in the first half and it was no surprise that stalemate still ensued at the interval (0-7 each) with Stefan Forker having bolstered the home team's challenge with three points and both Mark Lynch and Enda Lynn, each of whom grabbed a brace, underlining their accuracy for Derry.
Jamie Clarke missed from a penalty in the 34th minute shortly after having come on as a substitute but Declan Mullan made no mistake when he was presented with a goal chance for Derry immediately after the interval.
Yet Armagh's resilience manifested itself in the 49th minute when Kyle Carragher drilled home a fine goal and became even more pronounced when Clarke made no mistake from his second penalty chance in the 55th minute.
Derry's feverish workrate, extra experience in attack and ability to dispossess their hosts kept them very much in the hunt and when Mark Lynch blasted in their second goal and Sean Leo McGoldrick tacked on a point, they looked set to glide to the trophy.
But Kevin O'Rourke and Caolan Rafferty fired over late points to leave it all-square at the end of normal time (2-13 each) with the managers agreeing to two extra-time periods of five minutes.
And it was in that spell, despite the encouragement of points from substitute Stephen Harold and Clarke, that Armagh were ultimately forced to bend the knee.
Armagh boss Paul Grimley was still able to introduce a note of levity into the proceedings.
"I'm utterly devastated," he grinned, "Our season is in ruins before it has even started!"
But on a more serious note he added: "Our aim has been to get what is essentially a young panel playing well together and I'm delighted with the progress we have made through the O'Fiaich Cup."
Derry: T Mallon; O Duffy, C McKaigue, M McShane; C McAtamney, M Craig (0-1), S L McGoldrick (0-1); F Doherty (0-1), M Lynch 1-2, 0-1 f); C McFaul, J Kielt (0-2, frees), E Lynn (0-3), A O'Neill, E McGuckin, A Kerrigan. Subs: D McBride for McShane, D Mullan (1-1) for Kerrigan, B Heron (0-2) for O'Neill, C O'Boyle (0-2, '45' and free) for McGuckin (all half-time), P Bradley for Doherty (46), D Brown for Duffy (54), J Kearney for Lynn (64), C McWilliams for Craig (64), P Cassidy (0-1) for McFaul, C Conway for Criag (64).
Armagh: P Rodgers; P Hughes, G McCooey, M Murray; C McKeever, C Vernon, R Grugan; A Findon, F O'Neill; R Tasker (0-1), S Campbell (0-1), A Forker (0-2): K Carragher (1-2), E Rafferty (0-1), S Forker (0-4, 0-3 fres). Subs: J Clarke (1-1) for O'Neill (24 mins), S Harold (0-1) for Findon (35), M Shields for McKeever (half-time), E McVerry for S Forker (42), C Rafferty for Grugan (47), B Mallon (0-1 free) for Campbell (50), N Geoghan for Rodgers (55), K Toner for Rafferty (56), N McConville for Tasker (58), K O'Rourke (0-1) for Carragher (65).