Goal crazy Kilcar overcome Naomh Conaill to reach first county final in 23 years

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DEVASTATING KILCAR lowered the colours of champions Naomh Conaill to book their place in a first Donegal SFC final in 23 years.

Kilcar 5-10 Naomh Conaill 1-11

Not since they won the last of their five Dr Maguire Cups in 1993 have Kilcar graced the decider, but now, guided by the star of their former glory years, Martin McHugh, they’re back.

And they did it in some style, too.

Goals, five of them, showed their magic in full flow with veteran midfielder Michael Hegarty, Conor Doherty and Eoin McHugh netting in the first half before Patrick McBrearty and Eoin McHugh’s second raised green flags in the second.

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Although they only really showed it when McBreaty surged through for the fourth goal in the 49th minute, the reality was that Kilcar’s supporters were surely thinking a fortnight ahead long before then.

McBrearty powered his way in before riffling to the net to open up an eight-point lead and they finished with a flourish as Eoin McHugh ran half the length of MacCumhaill Park before finding the net for the second time.

Eoghan McGettigan had a chance to bring Naomh Conaill back to within two points, but his 42nd minute penalty – after Conor McShane fouled Ciaran Brennan – was saved by Kilcar goalkeeper Eamon McGinley.

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In the first half, Patrick McBrearty saw a penalty saved by Stephen McGrath, the Naomh Conaill ‘keeper, but there was a real sense that it was to be Kilcar’s day when McGinley got down to block McGettigan’s penalty.

The nerves whistles through the blue and yellow shoulders on the Sean MacCumhaill Park terraces when Ciaran Thompson, who was one of the few from the champions to have a good hour, managed to pull Naomh Conaill back to within four points, but Kilcar never looked like bending.

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It was a far cry from last year when Kilcar arrived hopeful of ending their finals famine, but left nursing the wounds following a heavy 4-10 to 0-11 defeat having been 2-5 to 0-4 in arrears at the break.

Twelve months on, it’s a very different Kilcar that stands now, finally, back in a county final and has Dr Maguire once more back in firm focus again after a 22-point turnaround from last year’s semi.

Kilcar were trailing by five after just nine minutes when Eunan Doherty wonderfully shot over from the left-hand side but the searing pace and precision of Martin McHugh’s men soon came to pass.

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They were right back in it when the timeless Hegarty was fed by Ryan McHugh, after the wing-back, who’ll be a contender for an All-Star award in the coming weeks, made the incision.

Hegarty was off the shoulder to McHugh’s right but didn’t have to break stride as he took receipt before slamming past Stephen McGrath,

The Kilcar tails were up when Patrick McBrearty curled over and just shy of the midway mark in the first half they were in for a second goal.

Hegarty flicked his finger tips to a throw-up to set Patrick McBrearty on his way. McBrearty went right for Naomh Conaill’s main artery and, after drawing out the goalkeeper, he offloaded to Doherty, who still had a little work to do, but he slotted home.

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Kilcar had a chance to open up a four-point lead when Eunan Doherty’s pull on the leg of Matthew McClean saw Jimmy White outstretch the arms to signal a penalty for the Towney side.

McGrath got down to deny Patrick McBrearty from the spot-kick, but Eoin McHugh managed to net a third for the challengers late in the half and a gorgeous, curling point by McBrearty had Kilcar 3-4 to 1-6 in front at the break.

It was Naomh Conaill who began the brighter and, after Eoghan McGettigan showed Conor McShane a clean pair of heels on the endline, Leo McLoone flicked home a fifth-minute goal for the champions.

John O’Malley, Seamus Corcoran and Doherty landed fine points before Kilcar clicked into gear.

The manner of the points by Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty displayed a team simmering in confidence and extended the lead out to six.

The tempers were fraught in the early stages of the second half with Andrew McClean, Stephen McBrearty, Anthony Thompson and Aaron Thompson all yellow carded and it was certainly a surprise that the full compliment of players remained in play.

Kilcar moved up the levels again in the final furlong with those goals and a last, majestic point from Hegarty, fittingly, sending them final-bound with real spring in their steps.

Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Aaron Thompson, AJ Gallagher, Kevin McGettigan; Marty Boyle, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide; Leo McLoone (1-1), Ciaran Thompson (0-3); Eunan Doherty (0-1), Dermot Molloy, John O’Malley (0-2, 1f); Brendan McDyer (0-2), Seamus Corcoran (0-1), Eoghan McGettigan (0-1, 1f). Subs: Leon Thompson for Corcoran (26), Ciaran Brennan for O’Malley (half-time), Ethan O’Donnell for Molloy (49), Kieran Gallagher for M.Boyle (52).

Kilcar: Eamonn McGinley; Stephen Shovlin, Conor McShane, Pauric Carr; Patrick Gallagher, Mark McHugh, Ryan McHugh (0-3); Ciaran McGinley, Michael Hegarty (1-1); Conor Doherty (1-1, 1f), Stephen McBrearty, Eoin McHugh (2-0); Matthew McClean, Patrick McBrearty (1-4), Andrew McClean (0-1). Subs: Mark Sweeney for E.McHugh (57), Cormac Cannon for McShane (60), Dara O’Donnell for C.McGinley (60).

Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs).

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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