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Ciaran McFaul celebrates the winning penalty. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Ulster Final

McFaul secures back to back titles for Derry with penalty shootout drama

First provincial final to go to a shootout ends with fairytale ending for Glen man

LAST UPDATE | May 14th 2023, 6:40 PM

Derry 1-15

Armagh 0-18

(Derry win 3-1 on penalties)

 

IN ONE OF the weeks that Derry GAA experienced its’ greatest turmoil, it ended with the senior footballers winning back to back Ulster titles through a penalty shoot out.

The pre-match was naturally taken up with the absence of manager Rory Gallagher, who through a Derry statement on Friday afternoon announced he was taking a ‘step back’ after domestic abuse allegations were made about him by estranged wife, Nicola Gallagher.

Given that nothing like that has happened before, the actual sporting contest in Clones was already in the realms of the strange.

But the final act in the game lurches it into another dimension altogether.

After the sides could not be separated at the close of extra-time, penalties was the order of the day. After Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch turned in a tour-de-force by stopping efforts from Armagh’s Rian O’Neill, Aidan Nugent and Ethan Rafferty, Ciaran McFaul stepped up and put his penalty into the ‘top bins’ to set off wild celebrations.

In March, a court case involving an assault by McFaul was eventually satisfied in Boston, and he returned home.

Given that he left for Boston having dropped off the Derry panel, there was little sense that he would make a return to county colours. But here we are.

So how did it feel, we asked the Derry captain, to be running up to take a spot kick at the Eastern Stand terrace with the sun on your back?

“Odhran (Lynch) probably didn’t have the best 70 minutes to be honest,” he explains about the eventual hero goalkeeper.  

“That shows the mental strength he has, he can brush off mistakes. Some of those saves were Premier League standard so I’d imagine he’ll be getting a call very soon. 

“You don’t know what you’re going to do until you’re actually there. I was going to go the other side of the net. I don’t know, my mind just froze and I said, ‘Right, I’ll go the other way.’ You don’t actually know until the circumstance comes up.

“I changed my mind in the run-up, literally a second before I kicked the ball. I seen Ethan Rafterty kept going across himself. So I would have gone to my left on the previous penalties and that’s where I was going to go. So I said, I have to change my mind here. Thankfully it went in underneath the crossbar. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking.”

Derry go back to back for the first time since 1976 and this team now can be ranked among the greatest editions of the Oak Leafers. It was the team that Rory Gallagher built, but this Derry team have moved on instantly. It is Ciaran Meenagh now in charge, and he will get on with things by living his own credo. 

“Listen, we are a collective management team and I have a motto in life, no fuss, take it as it comes, you take things in your stride and get on with it,” said Meenagh afterwards about becoming the manager.

“That’s the way that I treated today, the players are the same. They are a mature group, there are very little egos in there or egos in our management team. They don’t exist I would like to think, so I think the performance spoke for itself.” 

It was one of those days when Derry looked to be tipping along, eking out a mature and controlled performance when they could play on their own terms.

They profited massively in the ninth minute when a shot by Paul Cassidy hung up in the breeze. Armagh goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty came, hesitated, and ultimately was caught in no man’s land when Brendan Rogers arrived like a steaming locomotive to land a big punch to an empty net.

1-1 to 0-1 up at that stage, the teams went on to trade scores 17 times thereafter in a game played on a knife-edge.

The battle between Chrissy McKaigue and Rian O’Neill was worth coming for alone, but O’Neill got a run of form together that started dragging Armagh back into things.

Heavily tactical with proscribed plays, the game was heading for a Derry win when a Rian O’Neill effort curled across the face of goal. It broke and  went to Lynch who was shunted over the line for a ’45. O’Neill nailed it himself to bring the margin back to a point with a minute left.

ciaran-meenagh-celebrates-after-equalising-the-game Ciaran Meenagh. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Derry were making Armagh shots difficult to appear, and Rory Grugan had one in the third minute of five minutes of time added on. Lynch grabbed it and the Derry defence was ushering it out of the dangerzone but Padraig Cassidy’s routine handpass was intercepted by the vigilant Jarlath Óg Burns, who was immediately dragged down by Rogers.

Black card for Rogers, and O’Neill converted for Armagh to draw level for the first time since the eighth minute.

Armagh had the numerical advantage and put a huge squeeze on the next Lynch kickout. O’Neill claimed it. From the play, Rafferty floated a ball to Grugan just inside the ’45 for a mark. Grugan paused over it, took his time, but there wasn’t quite enough juice on it to carry over.

Onto extra-time, and the crowd finally finding their voice in this tense sickness of a football game.

Scores were thin on the ground but points from Burns and Stefan Campbell had Armagh two up with three minutes remaining.

In that time, Shane McGuigan went Supernova, nailing a point on the loop, drawing a foul from James Morgan that Niall Toner nailed, drawing a foul from Morgan that McGuigan nailed himself, winning the very next kickout to start a move that Lachlan Murray finished to go one up.

There was time for one last Armagh attack, and Stefan Campbell’s direct running drew a free for O’Neill to convert to take the whole shebang to penalties.

odhran-lynch-saves-a-penalty-from-rian-oneill Odhran Lynch keeps out Rian O'Neill's penalty. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

Odhran Lynch saved from Rian O’Neill. Shane McGuigan scored his. Callum Cumniskey scored for Armagh. Derry’s Paul Cassidy had his effort save. Lynch produced a strong hand to keep Aidan Nugent’s shot out. Conor Glass roofed his shot.

Ethan Rafferty faced Lynch in the battle of the goalkeepers. Lynch dived to his right and kept it out.

And the final act for McFaul. Into the top corner.

It’s a strange and funny business, sport and Gaelic football. At the end of a sad and rotten week, this was a moment out of all our lives.

 

Scorers for Derry: Penalties – Shane McGuigan, Conor Glass, Ciaran McFaul.

Shane McGuigan 0-7 (3f), Brendan Rogers 1-2, Niall Toner 0-2 (2f), Gareth McKinless, Conor Glass, Niall Loughlin, Lachlan Murray 0-1 each.

Scorers for Armagh: Penalties – Callum Cumiskey.

Rian O’Neill 0-6, (3f, 1x’45), Ethan Rafferty, Stefan Campbell 0-2 each, Jarlath Óg Burns 0-2, (1 mark), Rory Grugan 0-2 (2f), Conor O’Neill, Ciaran Mackin, Ross McQuillan 0-1 each, Greg McCabe 0-1 mark.  

 

Derry

1. Odhran Lynch (Magharefelt)

2. Christopher McKaigue (Slaughtneil), 3. Eoin McEvoy (Magherafelt), 4. Conor McCluskey (Magherafelt)

5. Conor Doherty (Newbridge), Gareth McKinless (Ballinderry), 7. Padraig McGrogan (Newbridge)

8. Conor Glass (Glen), 9. Brendan Rogers (Slaughtneil)

23. Benny Heron (Ballinascreen), 11. Paul Cassidy (Bellaghy), 12. Ethan Doherty (Glen)

13. Niall Toner (Lavey), 14. Shane McGuigan (Slaughtneil), 15. Niall Loughlin (Greenlough)

Subs:

18. Ciaran McFaul (Glen) for Heron (48)

20. Lachlan Murray (Desertmartin) for Loughlin (61)

10. Padraig Cassidy for Conor Doherty (64)

23. Heron for Murray (ET 1)

5. Conor Doherty for Padraig Cassidy (ET 1)

15. Loughlin for McGrogan (ET 14)

20. Murray for Heron (ET 14)

 

Armagh

1. Ethan Rafferty (Granemore)

2. Conor O’Neill (Killeavy), 3. Aaron McKay (Dromintee), 4. Aidan Forker (Maghery)

5. Ciaran Mackin (Camlough), 6. Greg McCabe (Camlough), 7. Jarlath Óg Burns (Silverbridge)

17. James Morgan (Crossmaglen), 9. Shane McPartlan (Clan na Gael)

10. Jason Duffy (Cullyhanna), 18. Barry McCambridge (Clann Eireann), 12. Rory Grugan (Ballymacnab)

13. Andrew Murnin (St Paul’s), 14. Rian O’Neill (Crossmaglen), 15. Conor Turbitt (Clann Eireann)

Subs:

24. Aidan Nugent (Cullyhanna) for Grugan (45)

11. Stefan Campbell (Clann na Gael) for McPartlan (45)

19. Ross McQuillan (Cullyhanna) for McCambridge (59)

25. Oisin Conaty (Tir na nÓg) for Murnin (64)

12. Grugan for Duffy (71)

20. Callum Cumiskey (Crossmaglen) for Forker (ET 1)

22. Connaire Mackin (Camlough) for Ciaran Mackin (ET 7)

 

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

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