Naomh Conaill 6-5
By Liam Porter in Glenfin
It’s always been said that goals win matches. So, when Ryan Hunter blasted home two goals in as many minutes and was upended a minute later for a penalty that Jack Flannery dispatched to the net, this game had suddenly swung in favour of the young lads from Glenties.
All that happened within the first four minutes of the second half, Naomh Conaill having gone in at the break trailing by a point, but the real pivotal moment of the match had occurred just before the interval.
The attention of referee Liam McConigley was drawn to an off the ball incident on the very stroke of half-time and, having consulted with his linesman he showed a red card to young McCumhaills defender Isaac McLaughlin.
It was a cruel blow for the Twin Towns outfit who were more than a match for the Naomh Conaill lads in the first half and while it looked as if they might collapse after those early second goals, they dug deep to produce a storming second half that had the game in the balance until the dying moments.
This was a terrific game of football – attack and counter attack and indeed contrasting styles as well. With the stylish Nathan Byrne pulling the strings, Naomh Conaill opted for the slick passing game and when he linked with Jack Flannery and Jack McKelvey they were at times, a real joy to behold.
But MacCumhaills had star performers in their ranks too. Ryan Finn, Oisin Gallen and the powerful Chad McSorley just some of their impressive performers on the night.
The Twin Towns outfit were quicker to use the foot pass and the height advantage of their inside man Conor Lillis and it paid dividends at the start, Lillis laying a long pass into the path of Luke Gavigan who was pulled down for a penalty that Ryan Finn blasted past Oisin McKelvey in the 2nd minute.
Austin Deignam’s 7th minute point stretched the MacCumhaills lead before Ryan Hunter got his first score of the night with a point a minute later.
It was all square by the 10th minute when Jack Flannery and Jack McKelvey combined before McKelvey fired low to the bottom corner of the net and Naomh Conaill found the net again in the 15th minute when Hunter finished off a fine passing move involving Jack Flannery and Manus McDyre.
If it looked like the Glenties lads were getting on top nobody had told Paul Finn’s young battlers and they responded with points from Jamie Keegan, Luke Gavigan and two from Oisin Gallen and by the 23rd minute they were ahead again by a point.
Not that it was all one-way traffic, Jamie Bell had produced a fine save to deny Hunter a goal in the 21st minute and Jack Flannery twice saw efforts come off the upright in the 24th minute.
However the MacCumhaills lads were certainly more keen to take the shot on for a point from distance than their Glenties opponents and they stretched their lead with a terrific score from corner-back Joe Boyle.
Jack Flannery responded for Naomh Conaill, his first goal-bound effort saved, he managed to get the rebound over the bar and the teams headed for the break with just a point between them.
The red-card before the break and the three goal blitz at the start of the second half would have broken most young teams, but the MacCumhaills lads were made of strong stuff.
Naomh Conaill’s Keelan McMonagle fired over after another slick passing move, his score sandwiched between points from Ryan Finn and with 7 minutes gone in the second half there were seven points between the sides.
However that was reduced to just four when Lillis stormed through the Naomh Conaill defence and fired off a shot that rattled the underside of the crossbar. Substitute Anthony Gallagher was hauled to the ground before he could pull the trigger on the rebound and Ryan Finn stepped up to fire home his second penalty of the match.
Ryan Hunter and Chad McSorley then traded points and with ten minutes remaining there were still just four between the sides and the fourteen men of MacCumhaills were battling bravely.
A point from Oisin Gallen from a 45 reduced the deficit to a goal and Naomh Conaill knew they were in a battle, but again they responded Jack Flannery finding the net and following that up with a point to extend their lead to seven again.
There were just three minutes on the clock at that stage, but with added time for injuries actually eight and for almost all of that time MacCumhaills camped in the Naomh Conaill half.
Fintan Griffin and Austin Deignam both fired over points and Oisin McKelvey pulled off a terrific fingertip save after a 45 was flicked goalwards. It was the turn of the Naomh Conaill defence to show their stuff and they stood up to the test blocking a great goal chance as well to deny Reece McGahern deep into injury time.
That was enough to see the young Glenties lads into another County Final against St Eunan’s, but the spirit of the MacCumhaiils lads would suggest there is much more to come from them in the years ahead.
MacCumhaills: Jamie Bell, Joe Boyle (0-1), Christopher Gallagher, Ciaran Barron, Isaac McLaughlin, Ryan Finn (2-2), Adam Burke, Chad McSorley (0-1), Fintan Griffin (0-1), Jamie Keegan (0-1), Luke Gavigan (0-1), Oisin Gallen (0-4), Austin Deignam (0-1), Conor Lillis, Reece McGahern.
Naomh Conaill: Oisin McKelvey, Shane McDevitt, Cian Doherty, Conor Breslin, Keelan McGill, Oran Doherty, Oran McDevitt, David Moore, Ryan Hunter (3-2), Jack McKelvey (1-0), Nathan Byrne, Keelin McMonagle (0-1), Jack Flannery (2-2), Manus McDyre, Joe O’Donnell.
Referee: Liam McConigley