By Harry Walsh
NAOMH Conaill will play St Eunan’s in this year’ Minor final on Saturday next, September 19, after beating Gaoth Dobhair at the second time of asking on Wednesday night.
A late Micheal Carroll earned Gaoth Dobhair a fortuitous draw against the Glenties men in Letterkenny last Friday evening but there would be reprieve at The Banks this time around.
Leading by three at the break (1-08 to 1-05), Naomh Conaill should really have been out of sight within five minutes of the restart only for Gaoth Dobhair ‘keeper Gavin Sweeney to make two outstanding saves to deny Jack Flannery and Paul McGuinness.
Indeed, Naomh Conaill could well have gone into the break nine points ahead if it wasn’t for Sweeney’s agility between the sticks. The ‘keeper produced another excellent save to deny Flannery in a one on one situation on 29 minutes and from the rebound the ball was quickly worked up the field to Daire O’Baoill who clinically dispatched his shot beyond Tony Byrne and, quick as a flash, their advantage had been reduced to three.
Playing against the breeze, Naomh Conaill opened the scoring through impressive midfielder Kieran Gallagher.
Micheal Carroll registered Gaoth Dobhair’s first score of the evening after two minutes with a monster free from half-way but Naomh Conaill hit back with two points inside a minute from Eoghan McGettigan.
Carroll and McGettigan exchanged frees as did Carroll and Gallagher before Naomh Conaill netted the game’s opening goal. Paul McGuinness’ shot was cleared off the line but before the Gaoth Dobhair defence could react McGettigan had fired high into the net.
Conor Boyle (free) and Seaghan Ferry kicked points for Gaoth Dobhair before three points in a row from McGettigan (free), JD Boyle and Matias McKelvey saw Naomh Conaill’s lead stretched out to six points.
It could well have been nine only for Sweeney to deny before O’Baoill raced through at the other end to net Gaoth Dobhair’s opening goal.
The second half was a much tighter, tense affair with scores at a premium.
It would be a full ten minutes before the scorekeepers were troubled – another McGettigan effort – after Sweeney had thwarted McGuinness as he raced through on goal.
Gaoth Dobhair netted their second goal of the game from the penalty spot after referee Kevin McGiney adjudged that Seaghan Ferry was fouled as he bore down on goal – Carroll hammering into the roof of the net on 45 minutes.
McGettigan (free) and Boyle (free) exchanged scores before McGettigan, the game’s outstanding player, completed the scoring late on.
Gaoth Dobhair, who overcame St Eunan’s in the Northern Board decider, were unable to muster a late response and so it was Naomh Conaill, who were on the receiving end of a disappointing defeat to Aodh Ruadh in the Southern final, who advance.
In fairness to both Naomh Conaill and St Eunan’s they have put together the best two under-age structures in the county this past decade or more and they’ll lock horns in yet another underage final next weekend.
The B final – part of a double-header – will feature Milford and Kilcar.
Naomh Conaill: Tony Byrne; Ultan Doherty, Charlie McDonnell, Oliver Stanislawczyk; Cian Doherty, Matias McKelvey (0-1), JD Boyle (0-1); Ethan O’Donnell (0-1), Reece McDyer; Eoghan McGettigan (1-06, 4 frees), Kierran Gallagher (0-2), David Keeney; Jack Flannery, Paul McGuinness, Jono Malley.
Gaoth Dobhair: Gavin Sweeney; Conor McFadden, Gary McFadden, Ciaran McHugh; Conor McCafferty, Ryan Kelly, Neasan MacGiolla Bhríde; Micheal Carroll (1-03, 2 free, penalty), Odhrán McFadden; Naoise Ó Baoill (1-00), Seaghan Ferry, Joe McFadden; Kyle McFadden, Conor Boyle (0-2, frees), Eamon Collum. Sub: Dan Gallagher for K McFadden (30 mins), Daniel McLaughlin for Ferry (47 mins black card)
Referee: Kevin McGinley (Naomh Columba).
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