Match Report : Maurice Bradley
PORTSTEWART claimed this year’s Bet McLean Craig Memorial North-West Cup at a rain-drenched Fortwilliam Park on Boxing Day morning.
As the Portstewart and Moyola players entered the field of play, forced to jump over a large puddle, things didn’t look too promising for a good final.
However, as the players settled in, the rain switched off mid-way through the first half and the soft underfoot conditions were a defenders dream, with tackles flying in from all angles, but few free-kicks being conceded despite an early yellow for a Moyola forward ten minutes in.
Moyola last won this prestigious trophy in the 2006/7 season, ironically, their opponents Portstewart, won it the season after 2007/8. Here the South Derry men were bidding for their sixth success while Portstewart were hoping to add to the 06/07 triumph.
The game was lively, both sides creating chances with Ryan Doherty impressing down the flank and Portrstewart’s defence rock solid with Richard Vauls, Chris Hanson, James Peden and Johnny Watt looking comfortable on the ball.
However, as the half wore on, Portstewert were awarded a free-kick a few yards outside the area.
Watt’s ball, dropping onto the six-yard line squirmed under the boot of Richard Vauls and was deflected past the diving Dwayne Nelson in the Moyola goal.
There were a few other half-chances for both sides as the half-time break approached, but neither defence was in a particularly generous mood and the sides’s went in at the break with that single goal difference in the two sides.
As the team’s started the second half, Moyola were straight out of the blocks and put Portstewart under a bit of pressure, urged on by Steven McQuillan and Daniel McIlhatton, the latter winning countless balls in the air, but to no avail.
Portstewart weathered the storm and came back strongly with Edgar, Watt and Bradley all going close.
Then, right at the death, a glorious chance fell to Moyola, but Andy Findlay spread himself well in goal and McQuillan blasted over the bar barely a yard out.
There were victorious hugs, cheers and delight from the Portstewart players at the final whistle, prior to captain Johnny Watt receiving the Craig Memorial Cup from North-West FA Senior and Intermediate Cup Chairman Billy Smallwoods.
It was a double celebration for Johnny Watt as he had been nominated by match officials as the BetMcLean Man of the Match, receiving his award from David Kearney.
PORTSTEWART PANEL: Andy Findlay, Lee Forgrave, Richard Vauls, Chandler Douglas, John Watt (captain); Nicky Hudson, Joel Bradley, Glenn Law, Kieran Neill, Ryan Doherty, Mark Edgar, Luke Bradley, Karl Steele, James Peden, Chris Hanson, Eion Gillan, Lee Rushe and Zach Barr.
MOYOLA PARK PANEL: Dwyane Nelson, Connor Logue, Rhys O’Mullan, Steven McQuillan (captain); Adam McClelland, Craig McAllister, Peter McClure, Scott Cowden, Tiarnan Rafferty, Daniel McIlhatton, Connor Lundy, Michael Tolan, Aaron Harrisa, Conor Taggart, Chris Dowie, Jake Taylor and Krzysztof Slakowski.
Referee: Simon McKay, Referee’s Assistants, Richard Hegarty and Mark Millar. Joe Mullan was the fourth official.
Spare a thought for Portstewart Chairman Eamon Murray. What a colossus for the club. A former player, the Chairman was deserving of praise for his dedication to the Portstewart cause and bringing highly-rated coach Johnny Law to the club. It has paid dividends. Season number one under Law, trophy number one.
Congratulations to both Eamon, Johnny and his backroom staff of their fantastic achievement.