Gaoth Dobhair seal a record 15th Donegal SFC with win over Naomh Conaill

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GAOTH DOBHAIR lifted the Dr Maguire Cup for a record 15th time this afternoon courtesy of victory against Naomh Conaill.

Gaoth Dobhair 0-17 Naomh Conaill 1-7

Odhrán MacNiallais was at his mercurial best for the Gaeltacht side, who won in style to add to their Division 1 crown against the Glenties based outfit, who were forced to play the final 24 minutes with 14 men after Marty Boyle picked up a black card to add to his previous yellow.

Boyle was cited by linesman Enda McFeely – passing on advice to referee Shaun McLaughlin – for wrestling with Eamon McGee, who escaped punishment despite being on a yellow himself.

The Gaoth Dobhair panel celebrate their victory in the Donegal SFC final this afternoon in Ballybofey. Photos by Evan Logan

MacNiallais scored eight points to win the Peadar McGeehin man of the match award as Gaoth Dobhair, as they have frequently in recent weeks, showed they have a defence to supplement their attack. Naomh Conaill scored just 1-1 in the second half with Ciaran Thompson’s 64th minute goal too late to save them.

 

Referee Shaun McLaughlin sends Marty Boyle off in the second half as Naomh Conaill went down to Gaoth Dobhair

Eamon McGee picked up a 20th minute booking for a late challenge on Leo McLoone, with the Naomh Conaill centre-fielder on the end of a series of early fouls. It showed the marker laid down by Gaoth Dobhair.

That, though, shouldn’t detract from what was an open first half; something that was in stark contrast to Naomh Conaill getting the handbrake stuck in last year’s 0-7 to 0-4 loss against Kilcar.

This afternoon, it was the team managed by Mervyn O’Donnell who went in at the break in front – although those from Gaoth Dobhair would’ve been mindful of the fact they had blown a six-point half-time lead against the same opposition in the semi-final last season.

There was an element of tit-for-tat initially, with the teams level at two, three and then five apiece prior to Gaoth Dobhair putting some interval space between them lead 0-8 to 0-6.

Christopher McFadden wins this race with Naomh Conaill’s Anthony Thompson during Sunday’s county final. Photo Evan Logan

Both sides showed fine levels of economy, with the first wide only coming on 25 minutes – by which time there were 11 points scored.

Ethan O’Donnell opened the scoring on 47 seconds only to see Dáire Ó Baoill level it up two minutes later. It went to 0-3 to 0-3 with Kevin Cassidy and Eamon Collum registering for Gaoth Dobhair to cancel out two frees from Ciaran Thompson.

Cian Mulligan and MacNiallais edged Gaoth Dobhair two in front again but Dermot Molloy and Leo McLoone responded for a 0-5 to 0-5 game on 24 minutes.

However, three in a row from Gaoth Dobhair – with Mulligan, Collum and MacNiallais on target  with only a Brendan McDyer response for Naomh Conaill – made the two-point lead at the break.

Man of the Match Odhran MacNiallais receives his award from Ann McGeehin. Photo Evan Logan

On their way to the final, Gaoth Dobhair blazed a trail having topped a group that included St Eunan’s, Naomh Conaill and Dungloe before obliterating Bundoran on an 8-13 to 3-12 and then overcoming MacCumhaill’s 3-14 to 1-7.

MacNiallais – with two frees and one from play – was the only scorer for the majority of the second half where Naomh Conaill failed to score until the 54th minute, when substitute John O’Malley made an immediate impact.

It was the Magheragallon team’s first appearance in the showpiece since Declan Bonner last took them to the title when they lifted both the league and championship double in 2006.

Naomh Conaill, though, have had much more recent experience of final day in Ballybofey, having won the title as recently as 2015 and 2010, as well as losing out in 2012 and last year.

Gaoth Dobhair’s breathed a sigh of relief when Ethan O’Donnell shot just wide of Christopher Sweeney’s goal for the 14 men. Sweeney made a vital late save from Eoin Waide, with the combative Odhran McFadden-Ferry then blocking from Eoghan McGettigan on the rebound.

Daire O’Baoill battles for possession with Naomh Conaill’s Anthony Thompson and Eunan Doherty during Sunday’s county final. Photo Evan Logan

MacNiallais popped over a free with a minute to go – well, before seven minutes extra was signalled – to move Gaoth Dobhair five in front. That opened with Dáire Ó Baoill putting Gaoth Dobhair six in front. Mulligan looked to have wrapped it up with his third of the day.

Ciaran Thompson, four minutes into injury time, managed to beat Sweeney in the Gaoth Dobhair goal to pull Naomh Conaill back to 0-14 to 1-7 behind. It was an untidy goal, with men everywhere in the square from Aaron Thompson’s ball in.

Fittingly, it was left for MacNiallais, Cassidy then MacNiallais again to get the late scores to ensure it was the green and white ribbons that would be left on the Dr Maguire for Niall Friel to loft.

Gaoth Dobhair’s present has finally caught up with its past.

Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Gary McFadden, Neil McGee, Christopher McFadden; Niall Friel, Eamon McGee, Dáire Ó Baoill (0-2); Kieran Gillespie, Odhrán MacNiallais (0-8, 6f); Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Cian Mulligan (0-3), Michael Carroll; Eamonn Collum (0-2, 2f), Kevin Cassidy (0-2), Naoise Ó Baoill. Subs: Dan McBride for Carroll (60), Seaghan Ferry for Collum (60+4).

Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Kevin McGettigan, AJ Gallagher, Jason Campbell; Eoin Waide, Anthony Thompson, Ultan Doherty; Leo McLoone (0-1, 1f), Ciaran Thompson (1-2, 2f); Marty Boyle, Ethan O’Donnell (0-1), Eunan Doherty; Dermot Molloy (0-1, 1f), Kieran Gallagher, Brendan McDyer (0-1). Subs: Eoghan McGettigan for Molloy (39), Aaron Thompson and John O’Malley (0-1) for O’Donnell and U Doherty (53), Seamus Corcoran for E Doherty (57)

Referee: Shaun McLaughlin (Malin).

MA in Journalism graduate from NUI Galway and BBS Marketing and NC in Online Marketing from LyIT, who has worked covering sport in Donegal since 2004. Part of Donegal Democrat who won McNamee awards in 2013 and 2015 for 'best provincial publication'. Reseacher for 'Jimmy's Winnin' Matches' documentary and Rory Kavanagh's autobiography 'Winning'

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