By Michael McMullan
PADDY McBrearty may have ended Derry’s Anglo Celt hopes with a stoppage time sucker punch in Ballybofey, but it was another year of progress under Rory Gallagher.
There was the return of Conor Glass to action and a more consistent look to the side, but the addition of Gareth McKinless took Derry to another level in the league.
It allowed Chrissy McKaigue to revert back to a man marking role in defence, with McKinless tearing teams apart with a direct running game.
Up front, Shane McGuigan continued to carry the scoring burden as Derry clinched promotion to Division Two, with the added bonus of lifting a trophy in Croke Park.
It was backed up by the minors winning the rescheduled 2020 All-Ireland title in style against Kerry.
Fulfilling their promise
AFTER years of promise and knock-backs, Glen’s golden generation of underage stars graduated with honours when they annexed the club’s first ever senior championship.
Under Malachy O’Rourke and Ryan Porter, they were primed to peak when it mattered, with an average winning margin of 13 points across seven games was a testament to their dominance.
A league campaign allowed them to tinker with their line-up and find Tiarnan Flanagan to add to their all-out attacking approach.
With Conor Glass slotted into the centre, he doubled up with Ciaran McFaul as the team’s spine. Their telepathy of knowing when to sit and when do go was typified in their performance in the final against Sleacht Néill.
Kings of Ulster
CONSISTENCY continues to be the key word in the Sleacht Néill hurling vocabulary as they won a ninth consecutive Derry senior championship.
Many of the players dusted down the disappointment with Derry’s heavy defeat at the hands of Offaly in the Christy Ring Cup final to get themselves back into the Ulster Club area they missed out on 12 month earlier.
For the third time in five seasons, they were pitted against Dunloy and with magic of Brendan Rogers to the fore; they put in a second half performance worthy of winning any championship.
Just seven days later they needed to back it up in the decider against Ballycran, which they did and not continued their preparations to bring home an elusive first All-Ireland title.
The blue wave
STEELSTOWN are no longer the nearly men. After three narrow final defeats in 11 years, the Brian Ógs finally threw the monkey off their back and Cahir McMonagle’ s late free sealed a narrow win over Greenlough to land a first ever championship.
The experienced core – with dynamo Neil Forester leading by example – was only part of the puzzle. New manager Hugh McGrath put a huge portion of trust in their young guns and it paid dividends.
Once they got out into the pathways of the Ulster championship and saw off Cloughaneely, their blue wave swept both Donaghmoyne and Butlersbridge aside in style.
They await an Ulster decider with Moortown this weekend as they aim to go on better than the club’s ladies who narrowly lost out on their Ulster title
Back to back
DESERTMARTIN waited 53 years for a championship trophy and they won two in the same season.
The club’ senior footballers won the delayed 2020 junior championship earlier in the summer with a narrow victory over Craigbane, thanks for a fortuitous own goal.
Their 2021 campaign was a total contrast. Conceding an average of 0-4 per game, they cruised to a second title and the Joe Brolly Cup remained in the shadows of Slieve Gallion.
Kevin O’Neill’s side didn’t stop there and had eyes on Ulster glory. A fine performance from their defence gave them the perfect platform to slay a goal-hungry St Patrick’s Donagh side in the first round.
It set up a clash with Cavan champions Denn in Clones, but they went down by a single point after shooting 14 wides.
To rub salt in the wounds, Denn went on to win the final comfortably leaving Desertmartin pondering on what might have been.