Glenswilly held on until, finally, their grip on Dr Maguire was removed and their reign as champions was over.
Kilcar 0-16 Glenswilly 1-9
For the first time since 2009, the name of Glenswilly will not be in the quarter-final draw.
With all their enduring powers, Glenswilly battled to the last. Christopher McMonagle’s goal, batting home with 90 seconds of normal time remaining, ignited the flame of hope.
Michael Murphy had flashed another goal chance within inches of Eamonn McGinley’s net and Glenswilly laid siege in the closing moments but even under intense Glenswilly pressure Kilcar didn’t appear in danger of letting their lead erode.
The problem for Glenswilly was always going to be bridging the points difference, even if they did win in Towney, and the fatal damage, you feel, was visited on Aidy Glackin’s team last weekend with a defeat to Gaoth Dobhair.
There have been plenty of squabbles between these two in recent years. Referee Robbie O’Donnell flashed three first-half yellow cards – all of them to Glenswilly men. By the end, the Naomh Muire whistler had showed 12 yellow, including two for Kealan McFadden, with the Glenswilly man given a red in added time while Leon Kelly of Glenswilly and Kilcar’s Barry McGinley were black carded.
Kilcar served notice from the throw-up. Ciaran McGinley surged all the way through the bodies before him and Glenswilly ‘keeper Philip O’Donnell had to be at his best to make a fine save at the expense of a point.
Less than a minute later, Ryan McHugh (pictured) turned neatly to clip over when a hint of a goal chance was opening up as Kilcar attacked with real conviction down the left-hand side.
The McBrearty brothers, Patrick and Stephen, had Kilcar four up with just over four minutes played and the evening was fast becoming an ordeal for Glenswilly.
And yet, for all the time the ball spent in Glenswilly territory, it wasn’t until the late minutes of the first half that Kilcar began to have the winning of it again.
It was the 15th minute before Michael Murphy tucked over Glenswilly’s first score, from a free.
A fabulous arching attempt from Matthew McClean restored the status quo for Kilcar, but Glenswilly probed intently and they were a sniff away when Oisin Crawford managed to steer between the sticks from the tightest of angles on the right after Murphy’s sheer force had taken possession for the visitors.
The champions were beaten by five in Magheragallon seven evenings previously and knew that, not only had they to claim a win in Towney, but they needed to do so with a handful of points to spare to keep alive the defence of their crown.
Last October, Kilcar – in a first county final in 23 years – lost out to Glenswilly in a final for which they’d been the roaring hot favourites.
It stung hard across the winter months and the chance to dump Glenswilly from this year’s race provided an obvious backdrop here. Even if it mightn’t have served as Kilcar’s objective here it remained a bonus of sorts for the side now managed by Barry Doherty.
Kilcar managed to move five ahead by half-time as McClean, Eoin McHugh and McBrearty, again from a free, tagged Glenswilly’s toes for the exit.
How they must have longed for the presence of Neil Gallagher – watching from the sideline following a recent shoulder operation – in those moments where they felt in with a chance of an upset.
Only for the intervention of OIsin Crawford, hooking off the goal-line from a deft Patrick McBrearty flick in the 36th minute, Kilcar could have been out of sight.
Kilcar were in again soon after. McGinley, with the Glenswilly rearguard parting, charged into space and, after a quick transfer off to Ryan McHugh, Eoin McHugh shot wide at the near post.
Stephen McBrearty spent a portion of this summer in America after opting away from the Donegal senior panel and he delivered a reminder of his talents, sailing over a majestic effort with the outside of the boot to raise the decibles.
There were times when Glenswilly showed why they’d been such a fiercely competitive unit in the championship but, as they huddled in the darkening south-west Donegal night they’d been dethroned.
Across the turf, Kilcar were once again beginning to dream.
Kilcar: Eamon McGinley; Barry McGinley, Conor McShane, Pauric Carr; Stephen McBrearty (0-2), Michael Hegarty, Aodhán McGinley, Ciaran McGinley (0-1), Mark McHugh; Ryan McHugh (0-3, 1f), Eoin McHugh (0-2), Matthew McClean (0-3); Brian O’Donnell, Patrick McBrearty (0-5, 4f), Conor Doherty. Subs: Mark Sweeney for A.McGinley (52), Patrick Gallagher for B.McGinley (black card, 57).
Glenswilly: Philip O’Donnell; Cormac Callaghan, Eamonn Ward, Paddy McFadden; Oisin Crawford (0-1), Aidan McDevitt, Joe Gibbons; Caolan Kelly, Leon Kelly; Kealan McFadden (0-1), Gary McFadden (0-1), Caoimhinn Marley; Ciaran Bonner, Michael Murphy (0-4, 4f), Brian Farrelly. Subs: Ciaran Gibbons (0-1) for Marley (44), Conor Boyce for P.McFadden (46), Ryan Hunter for L.Kelly (black card, 48), Christopher McMonagle (1-0) for K.McFadden (55).
Referee: Robbie O’Donnell (Naomh Muire).