CENTRA SUPERMARKETS U21 A FINAL
NAOMH CONAILL 1-08
By Harry Walsh
KILCAR were crowned Donegal U21 football champions as they deservedly prised the silverware from Naomh Conaill’s grasp at Eamonn Byrne Memoiral Park in Killybegs yesterday.
The Glenties team, who have lifted the title in five of the previous seven years, enjoyed a bright start but in the end it was Patrick McBrearty, the Kilcar captain, who was presented with the Cup by Sean Dunnion.
After taking some time to find their feet, it was John McNulty’s men who looked in control of their own destiny, until a late John O’Malley goal briefly raised the Naomh Conaill hopes.
Despite having Conal Gilmore sent off, just five minutes into the second, the Towney lads claimed the title with two points to spare.
Naomh Conaill would also finish the game with fourteen men, Eunan Doherty picking up a second yellow in injury time, in what was a hard, physical but by no means dirty encounter.
Indeed, credit is due to the local Killybegs club who ensured that the playing surface was fit for a County final in this the second week in November.
Connie Doherty’s young charges started on the front foot with captain John O’Malley and Ciaran Thompson putting them two points to the good inside the opening five minutes.
Kilcar opened their account through wing back Cormac Cannon on eight minutes and two points in as many minutes from Eoin McHugh and Patrick McBrearty saw them edge ahead after ten minutes.
The game’s opening goal arrived a minute later. Ryan McHugh and Aodhan McGinley worked the opening for Ryan McGinley to hammer low into the bottom corner of the net.
Thompson (free) got Naomh Conaill’s first score in thirteen minutes as the men from Glenties struggled to break through a resolute Kilcar rearguard.
With John O’Malley well contained, Naomh Conaill then resorted to a couple of hopeful efforts, which drifted wide.
In contrast, Kilcar were more economical with the chances which came their way – a McBrearty free from the sideline putting four between the sides.
Mark Gallagher and McBrearty (’45) exchanged points before Dermot McGinley was perfectly positioned to clear Ciaran Thompson’s fisted effort off his own line after O’Malley’s free fell short.
Half time: Kilcar 1-05, Naomh Conaill 0-04.
Cousins Ryan and Eoin McHugh kicked wides inside the opening minute of the restart to add to the five Kilcar had accumulated in the first half before McBrearty knocked over their first score on 31 minutes.
Kilcar were reduced to fourteen men when Conal Gilmore was shown a straight red card for pushing Ciaran Thompson to the ground after the midfielder had himself been fouled.
Referee Martin Coll consulted with his linesman Ryan Walsh before making the decision which appeared to be quite harsh.
Thompson would get the next two scores, one a free, to leave just three between the teams on 40 minutes.
McBrearty burst clear of the shackles of Donnacha O’Callaghan and Jason Campbell to fist over fifth score of the afternoon before Seamus Ellis also used his hands to divert Thompson’s effort over the black spot to cut the deficit to three once more.
A clever dummy, which send Campbell the wrong way, opened the way for another McBrearty score on 47 minutes before Ronan O’Donnell did well to deny Aodhan McGinley a second Kilcar goal on 49 minutes.
O’Malley converted a ’45 with seven minutes left on the clock before Christopher Cunningham produced a brilliant last ditch block to deny Donnacha O’Callaghan.
Ciaran Brennan came close for Naomh Conaill before McBrearty got Kilcar’s first score in ten minutes to stretch the advantage back out to four.
Christopher Cunningham’s excellent tackle on O’Callaghan, which denied the big midfielder a shot on goal, epitomised the spirit within the Kilcar ranks before O’Malley’s left footed goal put just a point between the teams.
Eoin McHugh gave Klcar some much needed breathing space with an injury time point after McBrearty had created the opening and, moments later, referee Martin Coll blew his full tie whistle – signalling scenes of great delight among the sizeable Kilcar contingent in the crowd.
KILCAR: Kevin Boyle; Christopher Cunningham, Pauric Carr, James Shovlin; Cormac Cannon (0-1), Ryan McHugh, Dermot McGinley; Aodhan McGinley, Conal Gilmore; Eoin McHugh (0-2), Patrick McBrearty (0-7, 1 free, 1 ’45), Darragh O’Donnell; Ryan McGinley (1-0/, David Gillespie, Andrew McClean.
NAOMH CONAILL: Ronan O’Donnell; Seamus Doherty, Jason Campbell, Hugh Gallagher; Kervin McGettigan, Ciaran Brennan, Seamus Ellis (0-1); Jamie Gallagher, Donnachas O’Callaghan; Mark Gallagher (0-1), Eunan Doherty, Charles McGuinness; Ciaran Thompson (0-4, 2 frees) John O’Malley (1-02, 1 ’45), Michael Doherty.
REFEREE: Martin Coll (Gaoth Dobhair)
GAME AT A GLANCE
Man of the match
While Kilcar’s three marquee names – Ryan McHugh, Eoin McHugh and Patrick McBrearty – all stepped up to the mark it was sixteen year old Andrew McClean who shone brightest yesterday. Playing in the sweeper role, he was the man who drove his team mates forward throughout the sixty minutes.
With goals at a premium, Ryan McGinley’s three-pointer on 11 minutes put Kilcar four to the good and try as they might Naomh Conaill could never quite manage to get back on level terms for the remainder of the game.
Martin Coll was left with no option but to show Eunan Doherty (Naomh Conaill) a red card late on while he also dismissed Kilcar’s Conal Gilmore after taking advice from his linesman Ryan Walsh. Coll can be a fussy official who can frustrate players and management alike but he did okay yesterday.
With Matthew McClean, Martin Byrne and Stephen McBrearty all missing out through injury, there is already talk of how well Kilcar are placed to retain the title in twelve months time. Likewise, Naomh Conaill supporters will be hoping that their remarkable run of success at U21 level (this was their eighth successive final) can translate into more success at senior level.