THE CHARITY DRIVE for ‘A Game for Owen’ was the winner as a Donegal select took on Ulster club champions Gaoth Dobhair tonight in Ardara.
Donegal select 1-12 Gaoth Dobhair 4-7
In the end, Gaoth Dobhair beat a young Donegal side by four points.
‘A Game For Owen’ was organised to raise money for Ardara man Owen McConnell. Owen is a father of four living in New York who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung, lymph node and bone cancer. He is the brother of John McConnell (pictured below with Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager), former Donegal GAA county chairman and Ardara club stalwart, who spoke to the crowd at half-time and admitted the family was ‘humbled’ by the efforts of the GAA family.
John McConnell of Ardara GAA club with Donegal senior team manager Declan Bonner. Photo Geraldine Diver
Owen’s family and friends at home and abroad have rallied around him and his wife Joanne, nee Diver, who is also from Ardara.
Despite the wind and rain, there was a very healthy crowd of over 1,000 for the event, which was well run by the Ardara club.
Donegal were largely drawn from the Under-20 panel and had Gary McDaid on the touchline, while Gaoth Dobhair fielded a strong side in preparation for their All-Ireland SFC club semi-final against Corofin from Galway in Carrick-on-Shannon in five weeks’ time.
It was Mervyn O’Donnell’s side’s first open-doored run-out in the county since their provincial championship success, when they defeated Scotstown from Monaghan by a single point in early December.
A view of the crowd in attendance at Pearse Park in Ardara tonight for the fundraiser for Owen McConnell. Photo Geraldine Diver
After both teams were led out to the pitch at Pearse Park by the St Catherine’s Band from Killybegs, Michael Carroll weaved his way through to score a goal inside of two minutes for Gaoth Dobhair and a second goal for the Magheragallon outfit came from his brother James on 16 minutes.
On a night when the wind blowing in off the Atlantic made shooting awkward, in-between the Carroll bothers’ goals Donegal’s opening two scores came from Oisin Gallen and Jack McSharry.
Colin McFadden scored a third Donegal point, with the wind at their back, while at the other end Gaoth Dobhair found it easier to run the ball as anything that was played high was liable to end up absolutely anywhere.
Odhran McFadden-Ferry on the ball for Goth Dobhair against a Donegal select in Ardara tonight. Photo Geraldine Diver
Naoise O Baoill shot past Sean Patton – the St Mary’s Convoy goalkeeper – for a third Gaoth
Dobhair goal before Odhran MacNiallais popped over their first point a minute later, on 25.
Lanty Molloy’s point for Donegal and James Carroll’s for Gaoth Dobhair made the score 3-2 to Gaoth Dobhair and 0-4 Donegal at the break.
Paddy Dolan scored the first point on the second half – from a free – and substitute goalkeeper Michael Lynch made a good save down low from a shot by James Boyle.
Two minutes in, Niall Friel was a point-scorer for Gaoth Dobhair, wth a well-taken effort. McSharry flew one into the top corner – Donegal’s first goal – and then Michael Statham pointed. So midway through the second half it was 1-6 for Donegal and 3-3 for Gaoth Dobhair.
The goal of the night came from MacNiallais, who broke through the Donegal defence and played a neat give and go with Gavin McBride and slammed into the empty net. That came on 47 minutes.
Ryan McMahon, for Donegal, replied, with Sean Gorrell also on the scoresheet. Thomas McGowan and Ryan Cunningham also scored late on as Donegal finished the stronger. However, Gaoth Dobhair’s goal-scoring abilities was the difference over the course of the hour. Their captain Friel scored the last point of the match.
The Owen McConnell Fund has so far raised over $65,000 for medical expenses, as hundreds of supporters back his #McConnellStrong fight.
Donegal: Sean Patton (St Mary’s Convoy); Aaron Gilhooley, Darragh Mulgrew, Oisin Kelly; Jack McSharry (1-1), Seamus Byrne, Anthony Diver; Ryan McMahon (0-1), Conor Classon; Kealan McGroddy; Paddy Dolan (0-1, 1f), Colin McFadden (0-1); Ryan Cunningham (0-2), Oisin Gallen (0-1), Lanty Molloy (0-1). Subs: Michael Lynch, Michael Statham (0-1), Thomas McGowan (0-1), Johnny Toye, Anthony Diver, Mark McAteer, Sean Gorrell (0-2), Shay Doherty, Cian McEniff.
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Gary McFadden, Neil McGee, Christopher McFadden; Niall Friel (0-2), Donal McBride, Daire O Baoill; Peter McGee, Eamon McGee; Michael Carroll (1-0), Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Naoise O Baoill (1-0); Odhran MacNiallais (1-2), Kevin Cassidy, James Carroll (1-1). Subs: James Boyle, Ryan Kelly, Gavin McBride, Eamon Collum, Charlie Doherty, John Boyle, Sean Doherty, James Gallagher, Gavin Sweeney (0-2).
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs).