A season to remember for the Oakleafers

1 Ending the famine

AFTER 24 years in the wilderness, Derry footballers finally got their hands on championship silverware. They saw off Donegal in a tense and tactical extra-time encounter that saw a man of the match performance from Brendan Rogers eventually break Donegal’s resolve. By the time Chrissy McKaigue raised the famous trophy, the entire St Tiernach’s Park pitch was a sea of Derry fans as Rory Gallagher delivered much needed success.

It came after an epic Ulster series that saw them end Tyrone’s reign as All-Ireland champions, but their campaign came to an end against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. The Oakleafers will still begin life in Division Two in 2023 after their promising promotion challenge came off the rails with a draw in Roscommon before being handed a lesson on home soil by Galway. There was a pleasing end to the year when Conor Glass and Chrissy McKaigue became the latest Derry players to pick up All-Star awards.

2 Hurlers’ story of persistence

IT seemed like Derry hurlers were destined to stay in Division 2B forever after losing out on promotion against Down and their bogey team Wicklow in the past. This year was different and after another promising campaign, it all came down to a trip to Ederney for a clash with Sligo. On an afternoon when Sligo gave Derry all sorts of bother, Odhran McKeever bagged 1-4 with skipper Cormac O’Doherty landing eight points to seal promotion after a high-scoring encounter. The Christy Ring Cup campaign came down to the last group game, away in Mayo, where defeat saw them miss out on a final spot against eventual champions Kildare. Derry will begin next season at a higher level with games against Kerry, Down and Carlow in a campaign that will test the strength of their squad.

3 So, so close for minors

WHILE Derry u-20s bowed out early, the minor footballers, under Martin Boyle ended up the season with no silverware but plenty of development. Victories over Cavan and Armagh led them to an Ulster final with Tyrone played as part of a Clones double header with the footballers. In a game they offered plenty, it was their concession of four goals that saw them always chasing without being able to catch the Red Hands. The bounced back with victory over a fancied Cork team in Portlaoise with a performance littered with character. Derry left themselves too much to do in the semi-final against Galway and it came back to bite when a gallant comeback came up short.

4 The Watties win again

GLEN proved themselves as the undisputed Kings of the club scene with a second successive senior title.They were tested to the maximum by Magherafelt for three quarters of their last eight clash before pulling clear.Comfortable wins over Newbridge and Sleacht Néill saw Connor Carville raise the John McLaughlin Cup for a second time. The story didn’t end there as they achieved a magnificent success in the Ulster final with victory over Kilcoo.

Glenullin left it late to clinch a winner against Drumsurn in the intermediate final after twice falling well behind. After Sean Brady’s side failed to kill off the game, it was the ‘Glen who finished strongest and Daniel O’Kane’s point with the last kick won the game. Craigbane capped off a fine unbeaten season with junior league and championship honours after Lee Moore inspired them to victory in the final against Ballerin. They came close to edging out Drumlane in the Ulster championship, who went on to lose the final on penalties to Stewartstown.

5 Emmet’s control remains

FOR the tenth time in a row, it was maroon and white ribbons on the Fr Collins Cup as Sleacht Néíll maintained their control of the Derry Senior Hurling Championship. After accounting for Portaferry, they came up short against Dunloy in the Ulster final. It was a tough game and despite playing second fiddle, their brave comeback took them back on level terms. Dunloy still had more and their class on front of goal was enough to see them take the title.

Sleacht Néill camogs were again champions, but lost their Ulster title at the hands of Loughgiel. In Ladies football, Steelstown were again senior champions, but when they failed to field for their rescheduled Ulster clash with Denn/Castlerahan, they were thrown out of a competition they had a great chance of winning.

Derry camogie and ladies football teams didn’t have any success, but have appointed PJ O’Mullan and James McGurk, respectively, as their new managers for 2023. In men’s football, Martin Boyle moves up to take over from Paddy Bradley as u-20 manager and there is a return of Damian McErlain as minor football boss.

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