Glen 'gutted' as referee blows whistle to deny last gasp point and seal historic title for Magherafelt
Magherafelt 0-12 Glen 0-11
Magherafelt O'Donovan Rossa ended a drought of 41 years to land the John McLaughlin Cup yesterday in a somewhat controversial finish to the Derry county final in front of an enormous attendance of 9,511.
With the winners one point in front, over two minutes beyond the allocated four minutes of added time had elapsed when Glen's Ciaran McFaul lofted the ball over. Referee John Joe Cleary had blown the whistle just before McFaul took his shot, much to the distaste of the Maghera faithful.
"Look, I am gutted at that," said a distraught Glen manager Jude Donnelly.
"I am gutted for Ciaran McFaul. Ciaran McFaul is in bits in there, he is the most honest footballer you are ever going to meet in your life.
"I wouldn't shy away from it, I was very disappointed with John Joe (Cleary).
"Three or four decisions that were crucial. The one at the end there, I don't know what the rule is on it, but do you play to the end of the move or if it is a dead ball? But to blow the whistle, when in my opinion the ball had left the boot and to lose a game that way…"
Rossa were much the better team throughout, however, a point acknowledged by Donnelly. Using the breeze to their advantage in the first half they got to half-time 0-9 to 0-5 in front.
More tellingly, they tortured Glen goalkeeper Callum Mullan-Young, snapping up 11 of his 15 kickouts in the opening period.
Magherafelt play a game that prizes defence. Last year they lost to Slaughtneil and a clip of the action just prior to half-time when they withdrew deep, leaving Slaughtneil to play with the ball undisturbed for around four minutes ahead of the half-time break.
That clip became infamous and held up as an example of all that is supposedly wrong with Gaelic football. The Rossa players kept faith in their management and the project however, hoovering up all the resentment and recycling it as motivation.
"I thought it was very unfair," said their manager, former Tyrone star Adrian Cush.
"People were telling us we were ultra-defensive in 2018 - we were the top scorers in Derry, second top scorers in the reserves and an U21 championship.
"Everybody's basing it on two minutes' football against Slaughtneil. I saw Dublin playing everybody behind the ball this year, Kerry playing everybody behind the ball when they were five points down - I didn't see anybody slating them.
"Yes, we used it. If you want to go into the changing room, there's clippings on the wall.
"We've got a series of tweets that people wrote about us that are on our WhatsApp group. All that was used as motivation."
Even before the ball was thrown up, it got a bit tasty inside the lines.
Glen's injured player Michael Warnock was set to do waterboy on the day and as he made his way to the sideline and became embroiled in a fracas with four Magherafelt players after they broke from the pre-match parade.
That set the tone for an attritional afternoon in the Bogside. Magherafelt withdrew en masse, the ball was thrown in and Ciaran McFaul won a free and Glen were able to keep the ball for three full minutes before Danny Tallon speared over.
With the stiff wind blowing down towards the Foyle, Adrian Cush's men had it well planned. When Glen had the ball they retreated into a spiky defence, and when they attacked or scored, they went after Glen goalkeeper Callum Young-Mullan's kickouts, pushing two banks of four into their defence to cut out any shorts.
Behind Mullan-Young's goal, a number of young O'Donovan Rossa fans had positioned themselves, sounding airhorns for the restarts to exert pressure on the referee for time-wasting.
It left the goalkeeper rattled, not helped either by the complete lack of movement in front of him and he sliced two restarts out over the sideline.
And with that cushion gained in the first half, it played out like that in the second. Glen never got their teeth into it, Magherafelt held on for dear life.
Only because they made it like that though.
In fairness, they spurned a penalty from the otherwise excellent Shane Heavron in the 44th minute that would have finished things as a contest. The final whistle felt like agony for Glen, but it was heaven for Magherafelt.
MAGHERAFELT: O Lynch; S McErlain, D O'Neill, G Lupari; C McCluskey (0-1), F Duffin, C Kearns; J Monaghan, D Heavron; P McLarnon (0-1), S Heavron (0-5, 4 frees), J Young (0-1); A McElhone (0-1), C Murphy, E McGuckin (0-3)
Subs: M Lynch for McElhone (45 mins), D Martin for McLarnon (50 mins), J Keenan for Lupari (57 mins), S Óg Monghan for Young (59 mins)
GLEN: C Mullan-Young; O McGill, R Dougan, O Hegarty; C Mullholland, C Carville, E Doherty; C McFaul, E Bradley (0-1, 1 free); C McGuckian, J Doherty (0-1), D Tallon (0-4); P Gunning (0-1, 1 free), A Doherty (0-4), C McCabe
Subs: S O'Hara for McGuckian (43 mins), T Flanagan for O'Hara (50 mins), C Convery for Gunning (57 mins), C Bradley for McCabe (61 mins)
Referee: John Joe Cleary (Castledawson)