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Brian McCormick Cup: Celtic maintain the grip

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DONEGAL TOWN 0 GWEEDORE CELTIC 2

BY AIDAN O’DONNELL AT DIAMOND PARK

GWEEDORE Celtic wrapped their hands around the Brian McCormick Cup for the third year in a row after overcoming a gallant Donegal Town side in Ballyare last night.
First-half goals from Fionnan Diver and Damian O’Sullivan were enough for Hughie Gallagher’s side to claim their first piece of silverware of the season in what was their fourth Brian McCormick final in five years.
The defending league champions, who have a play-off for the league title in two weeks’ time, made full of advantage of a strong wind in the first forty-five minutes and defended smartly after the break when Donegal came more and more into the game.
Marty Byrne’s side put up a strong showing and but for a little bit of luck and some better finishing, might’ve produced an unexpected upset against their Premier League counterparts.
Donegal were left to rue a couple of excellent chances in either half, with Declan Brown denied by the crossbar at a stage in the game when they were well on top, while they were left feeling rightly aggrieved after referee Joe McHugh failed to award a penalty for a foul on Stephen Keeney.
Gweedore opened the scoring on thirteen minutes following a long ball from goalkeeper Michael McKelvey that released Gary Whoriskey down the left side. The former Finn Harps player nipped in behind full-back Ryan Gallagher, who was somewhat deceived by the flight of the ball, and Whoriskey picked out Fionnan Diver to flick beyond Dermot McCafferty at the front post.
The Donegal Town goalkeeper then pulled off a couple of excellent stops to keep Gweedore at bay. A swirling cross by left-back David Ward got caught up by the strong cross-wind and McCafferty did well to readjust himself before tipping behind for a corner.
And from the resulting delivery by Whoriskey, the custodian pulled off another excellent stop to claw a goal-bound header by Tomas Diver away to safety.
Marty Byrne’s side created their one and only chance of the first half on the half-hour mark and it came following an intricate one-two between Stephen Curneen and Stephen Keeney on the edge of the box.
The former collected the return-ball but couldn’t keep his close-range effort on target, although McKelvey did really well to reduce the angle, having raced from his line.
The Hospital Field outfit then had a strong shout for a penalty waved away following a coming together between Paul ‘Rua’ McBride and Keeney. However, referee Joe McHugh waved play on, much to the annoyance and shock of the Donegal players and supporters.
Having withstood Donegal’s best passage of play, Gweedore then showed their ruthless streak to inflict a telling blow just before half-time.
Centre-half JP Byrne produced a timely block to deny a Whoriskey volley but after recycling the ball, Damian O’Sullivan was on hand to slide home from a couple of yards out, following a cushioned knockdown by McBride.
Assisted by the elements after the restart, Donegal started the second half strong and after Cannon and Curneen flashed twenty-yard efforts narrowly wide at either end, the men from the Heritage Town were denied by the woodwork.
Left winger Declan Brown crashed a header onto the crossbar from five yards following a cross from Raymie McGroary and after the ball was sent back into the mixer, McKelvey produced an excellent save to keep out Curneen on the follow up.
Donegal continued to enjoy large periods of possession but too often lacked a cutting edge in attack, while the centre-half partnership of David McGee and Paul ‘Rua’ McBride were in no mood to give their opponents a sniff at goal.
But Byrne’s side never gave in and might’ve set up a grandstand finale only for McKelvey to produce another top class save to deny Benny Byrne, while Tomas Diver showed wonderful footwork to evade his marker before firing over the crossbar at the other end.

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Donegal Town: Dermot McCafferty; Ryan Gallagher, Danny McGarrigle, JP Byrne, Kevin Devenney; Stephen Curneen, Benny Byrne, Sean Boyle, Declan Brown; Raymie McGroary, Stephen Keeney. Subs: Jamie McCrea (Gallagher, h.t), Ryan Earley (Devenney, 73 mins), Joe McIntyre (Brown, 82 mins).

Gweedore Celtic: Michael McKelvey; Jamie Boyle, Paul Rua McBride, David McGee, David Ward; Colin Ferry, Damian O’Sullivan, Eamonn Cannon, Fionnan Diver, Gary Whoriskey; Tomas Diver. Subs: Eugene McBride (O’Sullivan, 68 mins), Kevin Friel (Ward, 73 mins), Ciaran McFadden (Ferry, 77 mins).

Referee: Joe McHugh

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