THERE WAS NO capitulation this time, but there were plenty of wobbles along the way as Kilcar defeated St Eunan’s to win their sixth Donegal Under-21 Championship.
Kilcar 0-13 St Eunan’s 1-08
Kilcar have developed something of a habit of not making life easy for themselves and there were moments in the final ten minutes when their supporters had to look through the gaps in their fingers.
Picture caption: The Kilcar team line up before the game against St Eunan’s. Picture courtesy of Chris Doherty
The on-form Aodhán McGinley kicked two quick-fire points after early scores from Stephen McBrearty and Eoin McHugh and Kilcar led 0-11 to 0-6 with 11 minutes remaining.
And then St Eunan’s fired a cat right among the pigeons.
The black and amber poured men forward and full-back Darragh McWalters, after combining well with Niall O’Donnell, slipped his shot past Michael Cunningham, the Kilcar goalkeeper.
When Odhrán McGinley, almost instantly posted a point, St Eunan’s were back to within a point and Kilcar were looking vulnerable.
In the 2014 final, against the same opposition, Kilcar let a seven-point lead slip from their grasp, the erosion completed when Sean Hume netted two goals in injury time.
A repeat looked likely when St Eunan’s came to within the minimum, but Matthew McClean and Conor Doherty steadied the ship as the jagged rocks threatened to pierece a hole.
Four minutes of added time at the end added to the drama and it took a save from Cunningham to keep out a powerful shot from Oisin Carr and David Tyrell, with the last kick of the game, blasted a free over the bar as the nerves whistled across a crisp Ballybofey night.
St Eunan’s had made the more economical start with Hume, Niall O’Donnell – who had been an injury doubt befoeehand – and Carr giving them a 0-3 to 0-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Frees by Stephen McBrearty and Aodhán McGinley kept Kilcar in touch and the south-west men could have had a goal in the 8th minute had Jason Campbell got his co-ordinates on cue.
Fed by Cormac Cannon’s arrowed ball inside, Campbell shot wide when well placed.
John McNulty’s team turned the pendulum with McGinley slotted over a pair of majestic frees to restore their lead, the second of them an ice cool kick from 35 metres.
A massive point by McBrearty put two between them, but the St Eunan’s response was instant as O’Donnell – after speeding clear – drove between the sticks from close range.
Eoin McHugh kept up the end-to-end nature of it before Matthew McClean, having been fed by McBrearty’s persistence, drilled over only for Darragh Mulgrew to reduce the arrears and leave the night well balanced at the interval.
In the final minute of the opening period, David Tyrell – just seconds after being brought in to replace Jordan O’Dowd – was in for a chance of making an instant impact.
Hume’s deft ball around the ball found Tyrell, who ghosted in behind the rearguard, but Cunningham, the Kilcar goalkeeper, thwarted his advances with a fine save with his legs to send Kilcar in 0-7 to 0-5 at the changeover.
With just 11 minutes to go, Kilcar moved ahead by five and McWalters’ goal had the memories of finals past flooding through the minds, but Kilcar held on for dear live to claim the Cunningham Cup.
Kilcar: Michael Cunningham; Eoin O’Donnell, Daniel Lyons, James Shovlin; Cormac Cannon, Ryan McHugh, Jordan Mooney; Aodhán McGinley (0-5, 4f), Stephen McBrearty (0-3, 2f); Andrew McClean, Matthew McClean (0-2), Conor Doherty (0-1); Chris Doogan, Jason Campbell, Eoin McHugh (0-2). Subs: Neil Sweeney for Mooney (57), Mooney for Campbell (60).
St Eunan’s: Matthew Gallagher; Connall O’Boyle, Darragh McWalters (1-0), Conor Parke; Barry McGeehin, Conor O’Donnell, Daire McMonagle; Oisin Carr (0-1), Conor Morrison; Odhrán McGinley (0-1), Michael Miller, Jordan O’Dowd; Niall O’Donnell (0-2), Sean Hume (0-2, 2f), Darragh Mulgrew (0-1). Subs: David Tyrell (0-1, 1f) for O’Dowd (29), Kevin Kealy for Hume (48), Brian McIntyre for McMonagle (58), Kevin Meehan for N.O’Donnell (60).
Referee: Mark Dorrian (Gaeil Fhánada).