They may have come into the Danske Bank Senior Cup Final as underdogs but deep down most people suspected that it was going to take something very special to wrestle the trophy away from Richard Kee’s side last weekend. Donemana have been defying the odds in cup competitions for a generation now and the manner in which they dispatched the Beechrove side suggested that Gareth McKeegan needs a whole different plan if he is ever going to buck the trend.
Brigade were like a rabbit caught in Kee’s headlights on Friday at Strabane Park and by the time they had found their way out of the glare, the holders were long, long gone.
Credit to Brigade for the way they fought back on Saturday afternoon, however they only managed to change the opening paragraph of the cup final story- definitely not the last.
The reaction of both skippers after the final told its own story- McKeegan, ever-affable and generous in defeat almost bemused by the fact that Donemana had totally stitched them up for a third year running.
His counterpart was obviously overjoyed at recording the club’s 19th cup success, and third in a row, but insisting at the same time that it was the scrap and self-belief in his team that had won the day.
“It wasn’t as comfortable in the end as it looked like being at one stage – after the first day we had a great lead but we didn’t bat too well on Saturday. That said we still had Brigade chasing 310 in the fourth innings of a cup final, but fair play to them, they gave it a real good go and batted really well. It was only in the last half hour or ten overs that we could relax, because they were up with the run rate throughout before that.”
The winning captain suggested that he wasn’t surprised either by his side’s first day dominance. “Without sounding conceited we know that if we turn up on the day we can put any team under pressure. We batted well enough and while happy enough with our total of 240, I thought we could have had 30 or 40 more. After that we fielded brilliantly but that didn’t surprise me at all.”
And when they needed a “go-to” man on Day 2, the holders found their man in Kamran Sajid- “He definitely held it together for us and he played the whole innings. It was a 70 not out- not a classy, classy. 70 not out with fours and sixes all over the place, but he was key as he held the whole thing together.”
There was a brief spell on Saturday afternoon when Johnny Thompson and David Murdock threatened to spoil the party but Kee always felt his side were in control.
“When Johnny came in he batted really well and gave them hope. It raised the whole atmosphere in the ground and got their team going. After that, when Johnny went everyone thought Brigade were gone as well, but young Murdock batted really well too. He may have come into the game a little inexperienced but from day one he wasn’t frightened to hit the ball to the boundary and he did put pressure on us. Despite that we were still on top and we believed the breaks would come which thankfully they did”
“I have to say it was a very proud day for me. I was looking at the record books and the last team to win three in a row was Sion Mills in 1962- more than 50 years so for me to lead this team to emulate that success makes me very very proud.”
Kee’s final words were for Junior McBrine who insisted afterwards that this would be his last senior final. That’s his eleventh winners medal and it’s an amazing record. He bowled really well on both days and while he didn’t come in with the bat until the end of the innings, the role he played was vital. For any man to say they’ve won eleven senior cups is an awesome achievement. He is a Donemana legend and his record tells its own story.”