Ward Cup Final, Friday 26th February 2016
[Derry Post, Tuesday 1st March]
St Mary’s Limavady 2-18 St Aidan’s Cootehill 0-05

Sean Butcher St. Matthew's Drumsurn
An awesome display of power…

St Mary’s Limavady produced a dazzling display of football to win their first ever Ward Cup, defeating Cavan champions St Aidan’s by nineteen points at Garvaghy.

Congratulations to the Limavady School and to our very own Sean Butcher who played a major part in his school's victory.

Chrissy McKaigue’s team dominated from start to finish and produced their sizzling season’s best amidst the icy cold hills of Tyrone to be crowned Ulster champions.

Oisin Hassan, always the man for the big occasion, top scored with an almighty 1-7 – all from play – while seven players in total etched their names on the final scoresheet. But while the Limavady school were at their lethal best with their high octane attacks and ability to nail their scores, this win owed just as much to St Mary’s defence.

Opponents St Aidan’s, noticeably bigger in physique and with no shortage of quality players themselves, simply could not get any foothold in the contest. St Mary’s wouldn’t allow it.

The Limavady school hunted in packs at the back, harrying and harassing the Cavan attackers into mistakes and winning turnovers. It was feverish defending, breathless stuff. Ruthless. And every man, every single defender and indeed half forward line at times, was singing from the same well-practiced hymn sheet. St Mary’s couldn’t have picked a better time to produce their best, and the hapless team from Cootehill never stood a chance.

The appearance of Callum Brown at centre- field was the first big fillip for the Limavady contingent. Brown is a star in the making, but injury has robbed St Mary’s of the classy big Wolfhound’s midfielder’s presence in both their close wins over Coláiste Ailigh and Carrickmore.

Fellow midfielder – Glack dynamo Marty McGonigle – opened the scoring the scoring in St Mary’s first attack. It was so typically St Mary’s – quick ball moved from player to player by foot and by hand, then over the bar as the Cavan defenders left chasing shadows.

The Faughanvale triumvirate of talent - Paddy O’Kane, Curtis O’Hara, and Kyle McGuinness all pointed soon after, and Oisin Hassan knocked over the first of his bagful with that sweet left peg of his. By the 20th minute, St Aidan’s – unable to find any space or time in the St Mary’s half - had only managed two points.

By half-time Limavady had a commanding eight point lead.

Half-time 0-10 - 0-02

If the first half was good, the second was superb. St Mary’s, with the scent of victory in their nostrils, went for the jugular. Callum Brown emphatically banged home the first goal of the game in the 37th minute. But St Mary’s weren’t done yet. Oisin Hassan found his range early on and worked the scoreboard regularly after the break. And just when you thought he had finished punishing the Cavan defenders he scored St Mary’s second goal of the game with ten minutes to go.

Anthony McGuinness and the hard working and highly influential James McLaughlin tapped over soon after, but it was only fitting that the big booming left peg of Hassan would bring the scoring to an end and the Ward Cup to St Mary’s.

Coach Chrissy McKaigue

Coach Chrissy McKaigue approached this final with a certain confidence, knowing that he was playing with a full deck for the first time in a long time.

“Aye, it was the first game in maybe five or six games that we had a full complement to pick from” he told the County Derry Post.

“In the last couple of games we were fire-fighting a wee bit in terms of swapping boys around to positions they don’t play their best football in but they had to do a job for the team. I was really positive going into the game because we had the full squad to pick from and we got that performance we have been seeking since the start of September.”

St Mary’s ran in eight points to the good at the break, but past experience meant McKaigue wasn’t able to relax.

“We couldn’t relax because we’ve been in that situation prior this year where we had a good first half and capitulated in the second half due to nothing but slackness and making individual errors. So the boys were well warned at half-time to push on. I think it was that fear factor of losing the game in the same way made us more focussed this time. On hindsight I’m glad that happened because it was the best lesson.”

McKaigue also praised the ruthless nature of his side’s big win, who continued to pile on the points long after the game was over as a contest.

“I was pleased with the second half because irrespective of the score I was pleased with the attitude and the good habits which stayed the same. It was a problem I had at the start getting boys to buy into that philosophy. They bought into well and they have seen that Gaelic games can produce big games and big days like that there for the school and the community.”

The St Mary’s coach was also keen to praise his defence, which just as much as their potent attack, has brought the Limavady school to its first ever All Ireland quarter-final.

“See from the second half of the Coláiste Ailigh game our defence has been rock solid. It has been our foundation. Certainly our defence today was amazing at times. We owe a lot to the defence in the Carrickmore game because that Carrickmore team were very, very good and to hold them to 1-5 was fantastic. But the forwards came back today and showed what they can do too.”

St Mary's : Dylan Moore, Jamie McLaughlin (0-3), Harry McLaughlin, Sean Butcher, Conal McFeely (0-1), Daniel O’Kane, Paddy O’Kane (0-2f), Conor McGuinness, Callum Brown (1-0), Jack McGonigle, Martin McGonigle (0-1), Curtis O’Hara, Kyle McGuinness (0-2), Oisin Hassan (1-7), Mark Creane

Subs : Aidan Duddy for M Creane (40), Manus Quigley for P O’Kane (45), Kevin Moran for C O’Hara (49), Fintan Curley for C McGuinness (52), Anthony McGuinness for C Brown (53), James Gaile, Daryl McDermott, Corin McMonagle