For the first time since their county final appearance in 2013, Killybegs are back in the Donegal SFC quarter-finals – and advance as group winners.
Killybegs 0-12 Naomh Muire 0-9
In each of the last three years, the Fishermen haven’t won a game in their group and had the fingers of relegation closing around their necks, but a useful win over Naomh Muire sees them into tomorrow evening’s draw having topped the pile.
They could never quite get far enough away to make it a straightforward afternoon for the home support at the Eamonn Byrne Memorial Park.
It was a game that was in the mix right to the finish. Even if there never felt a sense that Naomh Muire could claw back the deficit in the closing stages, Killybegs were unable to settle ’til it was over.
A key period for Killybegs was their opening to the second half when they opened up a five point lead within 12 minutes of the re-start.
Hugh McFadden, again leading by example at centrefield, connected perfectly with a free off the outside of his right boot to start a period of Killybegs dominance.
McFadden kicked two points in that spell while Christopher Murrin, who has just recently returned from an injury lay-off, planted the other pair. Murrin seemed in discomfort with the effects of the injury evident at times, but he ended with four points off a strong hour for the target man.
Darragh Whyte – who has close family ties to the Killybegs club, for whom his father played – helped kick-start the Naomh Muire comeback with a massive 50-metre free but while they got close the visitors couldn’t get close enough.
Brendan McGuire stroked over to put Killybegs in front, but Naomh Muire swung over three points in as many minutes to take a brief command of things.
Shaun ‘Yank’ Boyle won and then pointed a free to draw the Lower Rosses men level.
When Hugh Martin intercepted a tame Michael Mullin kick-out he fed Shaun ‘Yank’ Boyle who spun over a fine score.
Thirty seconds later, again after Martin took receipt of Mullin’s kick-out, Daniel Devlin drew a foul and Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle converted the free.
But Killybegs shook the sleep from their eyes.
Eoghan Ban Gallagher – restored to the Killybegs XV having come back to the fishing port on Wednesday night after a three-week trial at top Australian Rules club Brisbane Lions – led the charge.
It was from a trademark Gallagher burst that Eoin Gallagher was able to feed McGuire for a goal chance, but the full-forward smashed his shot over the black spot.
Murrin, after McFadden’s power took him away, and Jack McSharry, with a sublime score from distance, put Killybegs in front again.
Shaun ‘Yank’ Boyle got his angles to perfection for another wonderful score, but Killybegs led 0-7 to 0-5 at the changeover.
Murrin, when a pass to the waiting, screaming Daniel O’Keeney at the far post might’ve reaped even greater rewards, fisted over while Daniel Breslin landed a screamer and McFadden tucked over a free to put two between them
Killybegs: Michael Mullin; Christopher Cunningham, Ciaran Connaghan, Stephen Muirhead; Eoin Gallagher, Shane Molloy, Jack McSharry (0-1); Hugh McFadden (0-3, 3f), Eoin Ban Gallagher; Daniel O’Kenney (0-1), Sean Gorrell, Daniel Breslin (0-1); Christopher Murrin (0-4), Brendan McGuire (0-2), Evan Broderick. Subs: John Ban Gallagher for Broderick (half-time), David McGuinness for Gorrell (51), Pauric Connnaghan for Breslin (59).
Naomh Muire: Tomas Duffy; Patrick Rodgers (0-1), Brian Gillespie, Robert O’Donnell; Cian Boyle, Aidy O’Gara, Daniel Gallagher; Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle (0-1, 1f), Adam O’Brien; Daniel Devlin, Tom McHugh (0-1), Hugh Martin; Shaun ‘Yank’ Boyle (0-3, 1f), Darren Gallagher, Shaun Burns. Subs: Darragh Whyte (0-2, 2f) for Darren Gallagher (half-time), Paddy McCafferty for C.Boyle (half-time), Harry Harden (0-1, 1f) for McHugh (43), C.Boyle for Burns (52).
Referee: Val Murray (Aodh Ruadh).