Naomh Conaill 1-09 St Eunan's 2-5
Naomh Conaill captain Kevin McGettigan paid tribute to the people of Creeslough just before he lifted the Dr Maguire Cup, which his side reclaimed in Donegal following a narrow win over holders St Eunan's.
A minute's silence when you could hear a pin drop as far as Barnesmore took place beforehand. The soft sending off of Shane O’Donnell in first-half injury time was something that will fill the weary reflections in Letterkenny - the St Eunan’s forward had pushed over Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí, who didn’t make a big deal of it in the slightest.
O'Donnell followed up with what could be best described as a weak fling of the arm. Referee Mark Dorrian, having consulted with linesman Val Murray, reached for the red card.
Faced with a massive wind, it was Martin Regan’s Naomh Conaill who, despite a two-point deficit by the interval and even before O’Donnell’s travails, would’ve been more encouraged.
Whereas in the final last year, which Rory Kavanagh’s side won 1-11 to 0-4 having barely had a glove laid on them, this time Naomh Conaill were gobbling up the turnovers.
The boys in blue scored the first two points, with Mac Ceallabhuí and Brendan McDyer piercing shots into the breeze, although St Eunan’s, with their first even half-meaningful attack managed a goal.
Conor O’Donnell played a quick ball forward to his brother Shane on 13 minutes and with Eoin McGeehin proving a willing run across the front, was found before rounding Stephen McGrath to put his team 1-0 to 0-2 in front.
However, Naomh Conaill, picking their method of attacks intrinsically and finishing them well, soon levelled at 0-4 to 1-1 with a Charlie McGuinness free and then a top-class long-ranger from McDyer.
Only late in the half did St Eunan’s again show anything of the form that had seen them installed as heavy favourites, with Niall O’Donnell’s free and then a simple Coalan Ward lob ending with McGrath in the Naomh Conaill goal tipping over from Aaron Deeney. Then came the sending off and, although St Eunan’s were 1-03 to 0-4 in front, their lead - and how they got there - was far from convincing.
Ciaran Thompson opened the second-half scoring with a free and, on 40 minutes, with the wind now a more considered factor of the Naomh Conaill offence, Odhrán Doherty put in a tantalising diagonal ball into the autumnal sunshine and McGuinness gathered comfortably to shoot past Shaun Patton.
Naomh Conaill, from two down, were two up at 1-05 to 1-03 and St Eunan’s had to wriggle their way out of the shell and wriggle fast. Sean McVeigh, on 42 minutes, scored their first point of the second half, although McDyer, at the other end, planted another long-ranger to maintain the cushion of two. Thompson, from a free on the right, put them 1-7 to 1-4 up with just over 11 to play.
Chancing something different, Niall O’Donnell put the ball in from deep on 50 minutes and although McGeehin got hands on it, his spill fell to team-mate Kevin Kealy, who spun in a flash to stab into the bottom corner and level to scores - St Eunan’s 1-08 Naomh Conaill 2-05.
Now, it was anyone’s game, with, in retrospect, the Naomh Conaill answer to that setback perhaps the standout facet. Again it was Thompson they turned to. Again it was Thompson who answered their prayers, with a brilliant 51st-minute score.
St Eunan’s were still in it and worked an opening when substitute Conor Morrison burst through and punched over to level it again with seven to play. Again, there was a hot potato moment. Thompson, with absolutely no hangbacks about having to take the mantle of responsibility, did it again to give his side a 58th-minute lead.
Then, it was to the trenches, with St Eunan’s having the ball for over two minutes in the three allotted minutes of injury time and eventually, when someone had to, McVeigh was the one who had the go and could only watch on as it drifted to the right and wide.
St Eunan's: Shaun Patton; Conor Parke, Caolan Ward, Aaron Deeney (0-1); Peter Devine, Conor O'Donnell Snr, Darragh Mulgrew; Sean McGettigan, Kevin Kealy (1-0); Ciaran Moore, Shane O'Donnell, Sean McVeigh (0-1); Padraig McGettigan, Niall O'Donnell (0-2,1f), Eoin McGeehin (1-0). Subs: Kieran Tobin for Parke (ht), Conor O'Donnell Jnr for P McGettigan (41 mins), Conor Morrison (0-1) for Devine (43 mins), Eoin Dowling for S McGettigan (54 mins),
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Kevin McGettigan, AJ Gallagher, Jason Campbell; Ethan O'Donnell, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide; Ciaran Thompson (0-4,3f), Jeaic Mac Ceallbhui (0-1); Brendan McDyer (0-3), Odhran Doherty, Eunan Doherty; John O'Malley, Charlie McGuinness (1-1,1f), Keelan McGill.
Referee: Mark Dorrian (Gaeil Fhánada)