Tony McNamee reached into the fire and pulled out the burning embers to catapult Milford into the Ulster Intermediate Championship semi-final.
Milford 1-13 Killeavy 1-12
In a game that looked beyond Milford at one stage in the first half, the Moyle View men came to life in the second half and a magnificent final quarter by McNamee yielded 1-2 for the Ramelton man.
McNamee’s goal, in the 45th minute, lit the touchpaper. He’d been quiet up to that point, but exploded to life with a goal that helped Milford into the last four.
Killeavy twice drew level in the closing stage with Paddy Hannaway and Conor Neill on the mark.
They were readying for extra time, but McNamee – who else – arched over a wonderful winner to lay his print firmly on this tie, delightfully reaching to the depths for a score that sends Milford into the last four.
It was a result that looked unlikely at the midway point – and that, perhaps, is what made this all the more impressive by Danny O’Donnell’s men.
Luke Barrett won the break from a Killeavy kick-out and fed McNamee, who made no mistake with an instinctive finish.
Three minutes later, Cathal McGettigan landed a free and Milford were in front for the first time.
With eight minutes to play, McNamee had the ball in the net again, drilling home after slaloming his way through, only for referee Anthony Marron to halt the celebrations, calling the Milford ace up for over-carrying.
Milford were denied again when Kane Barrett rose to bat home from a McGettigan free, but a square ball infringement came to Killeavy’s rescue.
In the first half, Milford struggled to get with the pace and the power of Killeavy, particularly on the kick-outs, but they were a new side in the second half and laid down a marker when Luke Barrett – who turned in a powerful hour in the trenches – sailed over from the ’45 with only 26 seconds gone in the period.
O’Neill’s free-taking was keeping Killeavy in command, until McNamee rose to the occasion in some style.
Killeavy posted four wides and knocked another two off the upright in the early exchanges, but a goal by Paul Quinn in the 19th minute was the spur they needed.
Donal O’Neill boomed long into Michael Murphy, who popped off for the perfectly-placed Quinn to riffle home.
A wedding in Tipperary meant that goalkeeper Caolan McGettigan and Pauric Curley were absent from the Milford side.
Rookie Caolan Bolton replaced McGettigan for only his second senior appearance of 2017 while county minor Ronan Docherty took the place of Curley.
Bolton was beaten by Quinn’s goal, but Docherty almost landed an instant riposte at the other end.
The space opened up in front of Docherty, who soared through the middle. His shot beat ‘keeper Sean O’Hanlon but, somehow, McKinney managed to stretch a hand to divert the goal-bound attempt over the bar
It was a magnificent reaction by McKinney, certainly aiding in keeping Milford at arm’s length – and McKinney would haunt Milford again in the second half.
Just after O’Hanlon tipped over from Darragh Black, the diminutive forward found himself in again. Momentarily losing possession, Black made the most of what he had, got control and blasted past O’Hanlon, only for McKinney to get into position for a goal-line block.
Killeavy were without the influential pair of Ciaron O’Hanlon and their captain Raymond Teggart.
Armagh panellist O’Hanlon, their centre-back, emigrated to Australia in the wake of their Armagh IFC final win over Silverbridge and an injury sustained late in that game rendered forward Teggart unavailable for this one.
The teams had been level on a couple of occasions before Quinn’s goal. Luke Barrett’s brace got Milford level after early scores from Cathal Boylan and James Donnelly.
Cathal McGettigan arrowed over to restore parity again to cancel out Ronan McGuinness’ excellent effort.
Points by Eoin McParland and McGuinness opened up a four-point lead, but Milford were just three behind at the break, when Quinn’s goal was all that stood between them.
Killeavy were 1-6 to 0-6 ahead at the interval, the Armagh side having been much the better and will have felt they could, and should have been further in front.
But Milford weren’t gone and McNamee, eventually, put them through to complete a treble for Donegal clubs in Ulster competition.
Milford: Caolan Bolton; TJ Evesson, Barry McNulty, Paddy Peoples; Ronan Docherty (0-1), Gary Merritt, Ryan McMahon; Joey Cullen, Luke Barrett (0-3); Tony McNamee (1-2), Christopher Barrett, David Curley; Darragh Black (0-2), Kane Barrett (0-2), Cathal McGettigan (0-3, 2f). Subs: Anthony Fisher for McMahon (49), Kyle Black for C.Barrett (54), Sean Black for K.Barrett (60).
Killeavy: Sean O’Hanlon; Ciaran McGuinness, Cathair McKinney, Jamie Cosgrove; Ronan McGuinness (0-3, 1f), Donal O’Neill (0-1), Kyle Mallon; Cathal Boylan (0-1), James Donnelly (0-1); Eoin McParland (0-1), Conor O’Neill (0-4, 2f), Michael Murphy; Niall O’Neill, Paul Quinn (1-0), Miceal McNamee. Subs: Niall Magennis for N.O’Neill (43), Paddy Hannaway (0-1) for McGuinness (49), Tom Behan for McNamee (53), Gordon Magennis for Mallon (54).
Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan).