GAOTH DOBHAIR UPSET the form books to dump St Eunan’s out of the Donegal SFC with an excellent showing at MacCumhaill Park.
Gaoth Dobhair 2-12 St Eunan’s 0-16
The side from Magheragallon haven’t made it as far as the semi-finals since they last lifted the Dr Maguire back in 2006 and with an excellent first half looked capable of bridging that gap. In the second, St Eunan’s, driven on by Niall O’Donnell, who scored eight points, knocked on the door but couldn’t force their way in.
A top class save from Christopher Sweeney from Cillian Morrison at the bitter end ensured a deserved win.
Goals from Cian Mulligan (above) and Daire Ó Baoill were enough for Gaoth Dobhair, while James Carroll was in excellent form with half a dozen points.
The team managed by Mervyn O’Donnell were beaten by 20 points in an All-County Football League Division 1 fixture by St Eunan’s at O’Donnell Park only last month, albeit missing a plethora of players.
Since then, championship wins over reigning champions Glenswilly and Ardara have lifted the mood but this afternoon’s was the most impressive by a long way since. And Odhrán Mac Niallais has still to come back into the mix.
Today, St Eunan’s were 0-3 to 0-1 ahead as the contest was taking shape. At that stage the main talking point was the fact that both parties in one particular dual of interest – Neil McGee of Gaoth Dobhair and John Haran from St Eunan’s – were already booked by match referee Shaun McLaughlin.
Cian Mulligan has impressed throughout the championship and his opening goal was sweetly struck past Matthew Gallagher in the St Eunan’s goal from a pass from Daire Ó Baoill when Eamon McGee also played a part on 11 minutes.
James Carroll kicked four first half points – two from play and the same from placed balls – as Gaoth Dobhair swamped the team from Letterkenny.
They might’ve had another goal had Niall Friel not slipped when in on goal and then St Eunan’s had goalkeeper Matthew Gallagher to thank for a terrific interception on James Carroll in a one-on-one situation.
Mulligan and Christopher McFadden’s point meant Gaoth Dobhair were in dreamland at the break, winning 1-7 to 0-4 and value for at least that six-point margin.
Niall O’Donnell, who scored three in the first half, opened the second half scoring but then missed a left-footed free to further make inroads for his team. However, Darragh Mulgew and another O’Donnell free meant St Eunan’s were just three down, 1-7 to 0-7, by the 37th minute.
However, when Gaoth Dobhair got out their half for the first time in the second half, Daire Ó Baoill slotted his side’s second goal from a pass by Eamon McGee on 39 minutes to make it 2-7 to 0-10. It was Ó Baoill’s third goal in three championship outings having netted a brace last time out against Ardara.
Niall O’Donnell kicked a fantastic point in reply but Gaoth Dobhair’s attacks carried menace all the time. Noel Kelly took the sensible option to punch over.
Niall O’Donnell’s sixth point, with 12 minutes left, meant St Eunan’s were back to within three down at 2-8 to 0-11. At the other end though, James Carroll soon added his own fifth. St Eunan’s, you felt, needed a goal.
Whenever the team managed by Barry Meehan and Eddie Brennan got back to within four, Gaoth Dobhair would keep them at arm’s length – a notion well illustrated when Jamie Reynolds joined the attack to cancel out an effort from Cillian Morrison. With five minutes left, it was 2-10 to 0-12 for Gaoth Dobhair.
St Eunan’s were having bother getting their kick-outs away with an insistence to go short and although Caolan Ward brought them back to just two down in injury time, Eamon Collum clinched the win for Gaoth Dobhair.
Michael Miller, the St Eunan’s substitute, was sent off for picking up a second yellow card in injury time and Gaoth Dobhair had goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney to thank for a brilliant save from Cillian Morrison, touching a slap over the crossbar, in the last minute of injury time to deny St Eunan’s a draw.
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Jamie Reynolds, Neil McGee, Gary McFadden; Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Christopher McFadden (0-1), Kieran Gillespie; Peter McGee, Michael Carroll; Cian Mulligan (1-2), Niall Friel, Daire Ó Baoill (1-0); Noel Kelly (0-1), Eamon McGee, James Carroll (0-6, 3f). Sub: Naoise Ó Baoill for P McGee (44), Kevin Cassidy for Kelly (46), Eamon Collum (0-1) for McFadden (59), James Gallagher for J Carroll (60+5).
St Eunan’s: Matthew Gallagher; Sean Hensey, Conor Morrison, Conor Parke (0-1); Barry McGeehin, Eamonn Doherty, Caolan Ward (0-2); Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Rafferty; Darragh Mulgrew (0-1), Niall O’Donnell (0-8, 4f), Sean McVeigh (0-1); Conall Dunne, John Haran, Conor Gibbons. Subs: Conor O’Donnell and Lee Monagle for Hensey and Haran (26), Darragh Toal for McGeehin (40), Michael Miller for Mulgrew (42), Cillian Morrison (0-2) for Dunne (46), Rory Carr for McVeigh (56).
Referee: Shaun McLaughlin (Malin).