SOCCER – INTER LEAGUE SEMI FINAL U13
KILDARE AND DISTRICT 0
BY HARRY WALSH
DAN Ó Gallchóir proved to be the Donegal hero at Swilly Park yesterday afternoon, heading a late, late winner to book an All Ireland final meeting against the winners of Cork and Kilkenny in Tipperary at the end of the month.
The Gweedore teenager, who had been sprung from the bench midway through the second half, got onto the end of a bouncing cross to head beyond the despairing dive of Johnathon McKenna in the Kildare goal.
It’s the third time in as many games that a substitute has delivered the all important goal for the Donegal U13 squad, a point not lost on Mark McConnell, who together with Paul Callen, is joint team manager this year.
Dunkineely’s Danny Walsh popped up to head a late, late winner against Cavan/Monaghan last month while Convoy’s Bryan McNamee proved to be the match winner against Athlone in the quarter final two weeks ago.
“We’ve only been working with the lads for the past four or five months and they’re a credit. As they showed out there again today we’re all in this together. Unfortunately, we can only pick eleven players to take to the field at any one time but as the lads who’ve come on as substitutes have shown it’s a squad game. I’m delighted for them all,” McConnell said.
Donegal suffered a blow before kick off when team captain Shane Blaney was ruled out through sickness but it didn’t appear to unsettle the home side who settled quickly to the task at hand.
Danny Walsh got the first sight of goal on two minutes only for Sam Jordan to get back quickly to block the winger’s effort at goal.
Cappry Rovers striker Sean McBride, who proved to be a handful for Kildare centre half Cathal Hagney throughout, was the next Donegal player to try his luck but his shot nestled in the side netting.
Kildare captain Joe Breen did his best to lift the visitors in a first half that was largely dominated by the home side. Indeed, the Kildare management felt the need to replace striker Kian Farrell with Aaron Teahan on 21 minutes as they struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Donegal thought they had opened the scoring on 22 minutes when Jordan Ryan shot home from close range after the ‘keeper had spilled Walsh’s initial effort only to see that assistant referee Ronan Floyd had raised his flag for an offside infringement.
McBride, twice, and Jeaic McKelvey both went close in the next few minutes as Donegal assumed control but try as they might they were unable to seriously threaten McKenna’s goal.
The visitors made their second change at the start of the second half, with replacement Octa Rosca looking lively wide on the right.
Breen, who by this stage was beginning to get more joy through the middle, went close twice in quick succession before Dan Ó Gallchóir was called from the substitute’s bench in place of the injured McKelvey.
Sean Curran was also introduced late on for Jordan Ryan with Walsh moving into a more central striking role alongside McBride as Donegal went in search of a wining goal.
While Donegal enjoyed more possession and territory, Kildare were always dangerous on the break and they came within inches of opening the scoring five minutes from time.
Breen’s corner from the left, deflected off the excellent Peader Mogan towards his own goal but ‘keeper Aaron Deeney reacted brilliantly to dive on the ball as it edged towards the goal.
With the game 13 seconds into injury time, Ó Gallchóir was on hand to head goalwards and despite his best efforts McKenna was unable to stop the ball rolling over the line.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal ever scored in Ramelton but it was certainly the most important in these players young lives as, two minutes later, referee Joe McHugh signalled full-time.
The full time whistle sparked scenes of celebration among players, substitutes and supporters alike. Next up is the All Ireland final in Tipperary on the weekend of May 26/27.
DONEGAL: Aaron Deeney, Bryan McNamee, Peader Mogan, Conor Gormley Conor Gavigan, Shane Doherty, Jeaic McKelvey, Jordan Ryan, Jack Keeney, Sean McBride, Danny Walsh. Subs: Dan Ó Gallchóir for McKelvey (46 mins) and Sean Curran for Ryan (50 mins).
KILDARE: Johnaton McKenna, Mark McGinley, Sam Jordan, Ruairi O’Neill, Cathal Hagney, Eoghan Maguire, Cian Gobbett, Jack Cully, Kian Farrell, Joe Breen, Darren Quinn. Subs: Aaron Teahan for Farrell (21 mins), Octo Rosco for Maguire (30 mins), Kevin Forde for Hagney (44 mins) and Pauraic Touhy for Cully (50 mins).
REFEREE: Joe McHugh