Draperstown were edged out in a thrilling encounter in the final of The Coleraine & District Under 16 League Cup Final. Most of the blame for the defeat rests on a poor, nervy first half from the boys, competing in their first ever final.
Straight from the start Draperstown had their backs against the walls. They could not compete with Limavadys slick passing and overall work rate. In fact, Draperstown looked very much a shadow of the side that had comprehensively beaten Cookstown just two weeks previous.
And with only two minutes gone they trailed. A corner was caught by the strong breeze and wickedly curled towards the six-yard box. Poor marking was evident as a lone Limavady player rose, meet and score from close range. However, this did not kick-start Draperstown, and they continued to be out-played, having to relay on the odd counter attack to provide their own goal chances.
This was in vain though, as a Limavady striker somehow wriggled and skipped past several Draperstown players and guided the ball into the top of the net. Draperstown then began to buck up their ideas, but playing against the breeze and a strong side they couldnt get the final pass right.
Limavady then added to their lead. A good move ended with G Kelly tripping up a Limavady player in the box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot. The ever-impressive McConnell brilliantly saved the resultant kick. However, the ball rebounded back to the kick-taker, who had the simplest of tasks to place the ball into the net.
Seemingly out of the game, Draperstown began to show their true potential, and could have narrowed the lead near the interval, but McClenaghan decided to shoot past two defenders with a surging McKillion well placed at the edge of the box.
Half time came and not soon enough for the despondent Draperstown boys. The team talk seemed to revive them though, and they came out the second half a different time. Oddly, now trailing by three goals, they gained some confidence and passed their way through the Limavady side that had before this been able to do no wrong.
Draperstown created many chances, but just seemed unable to get the elusive goal, with offsides, posts, poor shooting and lacking final balls preventing them. With twenty minutes to go however, they did manage to reduce the deficit when a great through-ball from Conway was finished well by McClenaghan.
Quinn, Kennedy and Murray then came on for McCullagh, Taggart and Bradley.
Limavady were in trouble and Draperstown knew it. The made attack after attack trying to claw back another vital goal. By this stage Limavady were getting desperate, and with desperation came gamesmanship. Constant fouling with Draperstown in key positions, then kicking the ball away and standing in front of the free-taker for long spells resulted in a lot of wasted time, little of which made its way into the referees short added-on time.
On top of this he ignored several key incidents, unwilling to book or send off constant offenders in the Limavady side.
McClenaghan then got into a good position inside the box. With two players positioned in must-score places, McClenaghan should have passed. However, he went it alone and his shot hit the side netting.
Then came the biggest decision of the match. The Limavady captain jumped up, in the box, and grabbed the ball in mid-air. The referee blew his whistle, and Draperstown felt certain of a penalty and a red card. However, they only got a free kick, and the intentional handball received only a yellow card.
The free-kick did however, yield Draperstowns second goal. Kelly hit a wicked shot, which went straight into the top of the net. McKillion then went to retrieve the ball to restart the match. For this, he was accosted by several Limavady players, who pushed and shoved him, and one even head-butted him. Unbelievably the officials ignored this, and the match was restarted.
The final minutes were played with Draperstown desperately searching for the equalizer that never came and Limavady unsportingly time-wasting.
The final whistle blew, and Limavady were victorious. It was very much a match of two halves, which neither team deserved to lose. Draperstown now start their league campaign with a tricky away tie in Coleraine against East End next Saturday.