Naomh Conaill come back from the dead to oust Gaoth Dobhair in SFC semi-final

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EOGHAN MCGETTIGAN STRUCK four points in the final nine minutes to seal a fantastic comeback for Naomh Conaill against Gaoth Dobhair.

Gaoth Dobhair 1-12

Naomh Conaill 1-13

Pictures by Joe Boland, North West News Pix

Six points down and misfiring in the first half, Martin Regan’s team looked to be slumping out as Odhran MacNiallais stole the first half show with four points.

Ably assisted by his stablemate Michael Carroll, who smashed home a spectacular 21st minute goal, Gaoth Dobhair were edging toward the final and a meeting with Kilcar.

However, when push came to shove, it was Naomh Conaill’s experience that took them through. In the fourth of two minutes injury time, with the last kick, Gavin McBride’s 45 tailed just off and that was it. The margins couldn’t have been tighter.

The 45 came when Cian Mulligan unexpectedly found himself in space and at 1-13 to 1-12 down, opted to shoot. However, his effort was deflected wide.

Naomh Conaill only led for five minutes – so for long spells it looked like Gaoth Dobhair.

With James Carroll opening the scoring and Dermot Molloy levelling straight away at the other end, it was gridlocked at 0-1 apiece before Gaoth Dobhair clicked into gear.

MacNiallais slung over two frees – the first of which he might’ve had white chalk marks on his boots as it was such a splendid effort from under the stand – and another excellent effort from Cian Mulligan had Mervyn O’Donnell’s team 0-4 to 0-1 in front.

Michael Carroll’s goal came when he picked up a break in the centre of the field after a kick-out from Gaoth Dobhair goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney. Charging right at the centre of the Gaoth Dobhair defence, Carroll got within shooting range and smashed the shot past Stephen McGrath.

MacNiallais scored another fine point right before the break to put his team 1-8 to 0-5 in front at half-time.

A goal on 41 minutes from Kieran Gallagher, the Naomh Conaill substitute introduced for the second half, breathed some life into the challenge of Naomh Conaill.

Gallagher was on hand to tuck home a rebound on 41 minutes after Eoin Waide had drawn a save down low from Sweeney in the Gaoth Dobhair goal.

That, added to a McGettigan free, meant that Naomh Conaill were right back in it, just 1-9 to 1-8 down at the midpoint of the second half. Gaoth Dobhair, so accomplished earlier in the contest, were losing their way with some jittery shooting.

Niall Friel and Eoghan McGettigan exchanged scores and with just 10 minutes remaining, the difference was still the minimum.

Seven minutes from time and with Naomh Conaill possessing the majority of the momentum, McGettigan scored the first of back to back frees and suddenly Naomh Conaill were ahead.

McGettigan added two more and when Ciaran Thompson posted his second point of the second half, it was 1-13 to 1-10 for Naomh Conaill.

Two late points, the second of which came from McBride, dragged Gaoth Dobhair back to within a point, but it was a point too far.

Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Jamie Reynolds, Neil McGee, Gary McFadden; Odhrán McFadden-Ferry, Christopher McFadden, Kieran Gillespie; Michael Carroll (1-1), Peter McGee; Cian Mulligan (0-1), Niall Friel (0-1), Dáire Ó Baoill (0-1); James Carroll (0-3, 2f), Eamon McGee, Odhrán MacNiallais (0-4, 2f). Subs: Kevin Cassidy for P McGee (43), Naoise Ó Baoill for J Carroll (55), Gavin McBride (0-1, 1f) for McFadden-Ferry (57)

Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Kevin McGettigan, AJ Gallagher, Jason Campbell; Ultan Doherty, Anthony Thompson, Eoin Waide; Leo McLoone, Ciaran Thompson (0-2); Marty Boyle, Dermot Molloy (0-2), Ethan O’Donnell; Brendan McDyer, Eoghan McGettigan (0-5, 4f), John O’Malley (0-4, 4f). Subs: Kieran Gallagher (1-0) for O’Donnell (half-time). Subs: Eunan Doherty for O’Malley (42), Johnny McLoone for AJ Gallagher (56), Leon Thompson for Molloy (60+1)

Referee: Seamus McGonigle (Aodh Ruadh).

MA in Journalism graduate from NUI Galway and BBS Marketing and NC in Online Marketing from LyIT, who has worked covering sport in Donegal since 2004. Part of Donegal Democrat who won McNamee awards in 2013 and 2015 for 'best provincial publication'. Reseacher for 'Jimmy's Winnin' Matches' documentary and Rory Kavanagh's autobiography 'Winning'

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