ST EUNAN’S 0-09 GLENSWILLY 0-06
REPORT BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT SEAN MACCUMHAILL PARK
THE more things change, the more they stay the same: St Eunan’s are back as Donegal champions again, moving alongside Gaoth Dobhair at the top of the leaderboard after dethroning holders Glenswilly for their 14th title.
St Eunan’s wrestled hold of Dr Maguire from the clutches of their derby rivals on a day when St Eunan’s mixture of the old and the new savoured the sweet taste of success before a crowd of 6,000 in Ballybofey.
St Eunan’s are the masters in Donegal now – and they were spurred on by Championship veterans like Man of the Match John Haran, playing in his 12th final just two days before his 38th birthday.
Captain Rory Kavanagh and Conall Dunne, who scored five points, stood tall as Eunan’s gunned down the 2013 Ulster finalists, who managed just one point from play.
Bar a mini purple patch late in the first half, Glenswilly were out of tune, unable to exert their usual menace on proceedings.
They were without their captain, Caolan Kelly, whose bid to have a sending off against Naomh Conaill overturned proved unsuccessful.
The build-up to the final was dogged by controversy as Naomh Conaill lodged an objection after being beaten by Glenswilly in the semi-final.
The Glenties club cried foul after a replacement was allowed on for Ciaran Bonner, blacked carded having already been book, and that player, Oisin Crawford scored the match-winning point. Their appeal fell on deaf ears with Ulster’s Hearings Committee rejecting it on Saturday, a little over 24 hours before throw-in.
The loss of Kelly, a pivotal figure for Gary McDaid’s team, and the saga that lasted the whole week perhaps had an impact. It was a day that will haunt them for some time, especially since their cylinders didn’t spark in the manner they’re capable of.
Brian Farrelly’s 27th minute point, a sweetly-struck point off the outside of his left foot, was the only time they troubled the scoreboard operators over the hour.
They were always in touch, though, never more than three behind, and there were understandable nerves from St Eunan’s late on when Glenswilly launched their kitchen’s sink.
One ball into Neil Gallagher – immense throughout for his side – was flicked wide by a St Eunan’s hand, while another angled Hail Mary from Ruairi Crawford in stoppage time was plucked from the sky by Kavanagh just when it seemed as if Murphy was set to receive it.
Seconds later, Eunan’s had worked forward to win a free from which Conall Dunne tapped over the point that sealed the win.
Kavanagh, Dunne and Haran led the way for Eunan’s while it was a memorable day for the likes of Sean Daffan, Conor Morrison and Rory Carr who graced this stage for the first time and etched their names into the club’s annals with the win.
The contrast in styles could hardly have been greater here and St Eunan’s managed to break Glenswilly’s barrier.
Their margin of victory might well have been greater, but their twelve wides made it a struggle at times and there had been worried looks on St Eunan’s faces when Kevin Rafferty was forced off after only ten minutes. The former Donegal midfielder was in Leterkenny Hospital for an x-ray on an eye injury by the time Kavanagh was collecting Dr Maguire from Sean Dunnion.
Glenswilly just couldn’t click, bar in the final five minutes of the first half when a mini-purple patch got them back on track.
Before then, three points by Dunne swung St Eunan’s into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, but Glenswilly hit back. However, Brian Farrelly’s 27th minute score, superbly executed off the outside of his right foot, was their only point from play over the hour.
Either side of that, Murphy landed two frees – the second of them a majestic kick from on the chalk of the left sideline – and Glenswilly were level. It was Eunan’s, though, who led at the break thanks to Conor Gibbons’ late effort.
The second half was a tense affair, but Eunan’s did enough to stay ahead. A superb score from the tightest of angles by dual player Sean McVeigh put two between them, but Glenswilly remained in the slipstream thanks to another McFadden free.
A surging run from deep by Eamon Doherty – a fringe member of the Donegal squad in 2014 who showed his credentials with an excellent display – drew a foul and Dunne pointed the resulting free before Conor Parke managed to get forward for a well-taken score.
It was nip-and-tuck as Murphy inched Glenswilly closer when he sailed over a ’45, but Dunne’s last-gasp free ensured that the black and amber ribbons could be knotted.
New champions and yet familiar champions – St Eunan’s have little time now to gear up for a home game against Roslea in the Ulster Club Championship.
GLENSWILLY: Gerard McGrenra; Aiden McDevitt, Eamon Ward, Ruairi Crawford; Brian McDaid, Leon Kelly, Cormac Callaghan; Neil Gallagher, Ciaran Bonner; Conor Gibbons, Gary McFadden (0-2, 2f), Oisin Crawford; Brian Farrelly (0-1), Michael Murphy (0-3, 2f, 1 ’45), Darren McGinley.
Subs: Cathal Gallagher for Bonner (35 mins), Kealan McFadden for Farrelly (47 mins).
ST EUNAN’S: Sean Daffan; Conor Parke (0-1), Micheál Martin, Conor Morrison; Caolan Ward, Eamonn Doherty, Darragh Mulgrew; Kevin Rafferty, Rory Kavanagh; Conor Gibbons (0-2), Conall Dunne (0-5, 4f), Sean McVeigh (0-1); Rory Carr, John Haran, Sean Hensey.
Subs: Mark McGowan for Rafferty (10 mins), Donnacha Gallagher for Martin (42 mins).
REFEREE: Martin Coll (Gaoth Dobhair).