IN MANY WAYS, it was the perfect storm.
As the wind and rain blew across the brows of MacCumhaill Park on Sunday two teams that had never met in the final of the Donegal SFC stood in wait. Glenswilly and Kilcar.
Photo caption: The victorious Glenswilly panel and management celebrate their victory in the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC on Sunday in Ballybofey. Photo: Geraldine Diver
Gary McDaid, the Glenswilly assistant manager, has said on a number of occasions that his club, founded only in 1982, are trying to build a tradition.[adrotate group=”59″]
Their fifth appearance in the senior final in only their 11th year at the ranks have proved the building bricks are stacking up. And still they were doubted to the hills.
Kilcar, on the other hand, despite their well-lauded tradition, were more interested in the present. Sunday was their first final appearance in 23 years; their most recent being back in 1993 when they overcame Killybegs to win the fifth of their five titles.
Bookmakers, we often hear, don’t live in tents, and odds of Glenswilly being as long-priced as 6/1 and Kilcar being an accumulator-only price of 1/7, were curious.[adrotate group=”56″]
Another thing about championship football – never spend too much time in the laboratories analysing championship possibilities using league form as the tool of measurement.
In the middle of August, Kilcar hammered Glenswilly 3-19 to 0-9 at Towney – after being 3-11 to 0-4 up at the break and withdrawing Ryan McHugh – having won 1-14 to 0-7 at Foxhall in April. Even when Glenswilly did win – peculiarly on a 0-3 to 0-2 scoreline against St Eunan’s – in the league, it received condemnation.
Kilcar’s Patrick McBrearty in action against Glenswilly in a 19-point win for the home side at Towney in the All-County Football League in August. Photo: Geraldine Diver
The current state of the All-County Football League Division 1 table with two to play apiece has Kilcar top on 26 points and Glenswilly just one place about the red-dotted line of relegation on nine points. They’re still not clear of the drop.
But it wasn’t just Glenswilly who were on the receiving end against Kilcar. Every single team in Division 1 was beaten in the south-west. Only St Michael’s left with a win in the league but Kilcar had more than revenge as they won the Group B championship clash in convincing fashion, 2-15 to 0-7.
That result helped Kilcar top what was termed ‘the group of death’ – Martin McHugh’s team drew 1-10 to 0-13 at St Eunan’s away back in May – the test in Letterkenny meaning they had to hit the ground running – and overcame neighbours Killybegs, 0-24 to 0-7.
Termon tried to test Kilcar physically but were no match for the Towney side, who won 0-19 to 0-4 in the quarter-finals under the floodlights in Ballybofey.[adrotate group=”38″]
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but on each occasion Glenswilly had won the Dr Maguire in their short history – in 2011 and 2013 – and had defeated Kilcar on each occasion on their way to the final.
Perhaps the day the chasm between Glenswilly and Kilcar really was stretched was just two weeks before the final.
Kilcar’s Stephen McBrearty and Andrew McClean crowd out Naomh Conaill’s Brendan McDyer in the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC semi-final in Ballybofey last month. Photo: Geraldine Diver
Kilcar produced the performance of the championship to destroy reigning champions Naomh Conaill 5-10 to 0-11. The Glenties team had no match for the powerful running from deep from Kilcar, who were maximising their resources perfectly into a carefully devised system of play by McHugh.
“It’s a good result today but we’re only into a final,” McHugh stressed afterwards.[adrotate group=”81″]
Earlier that day, in a ponderous and unimpressive performance the side managed by Michael Canning, Glenswilly, fell over the line to defeat Malin 0-9 to 0-7 in their county semi-final.
If ever there was a case of teams being over and under the radar then this was it.
Even before that, back in May, Glenswilly lost to Ardara first day out and looked to be staring down the barrel against Dungloe on their second before winning without Michael Murphy, who had a knee injury.
Glenswilly’s Neil Gallagher on the ball for his team in the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC against Dungloe in August. Photo: Geraldine Diver
That day against Dungloe in August, Neil Gallagher made his first competitive appearance for Glenswilly as they ground it out with 14 men – Kealan McFadden had been dismissed – to win 1-10 to 0-10 on an afternoon, in retrospect, that changed their entire season.
“Neil is crucial,” Joe Gibbons said afterwards. “Not even with his kick and catch but his ability to talk to you. His influence is phenomenal, even at only 40 or 50 per cent fit.”
Michael Murphy returned to the Glenswilly side in their win over Bundoran in September. Photo: Geraldine Diver
A week later in Bundoran, Murphy, when some thought his season was over, appeared at Gaelic Park. All four teams in Group A were gridlocked on two points. Going into the final set of fixtures, the quartet knew they could all win the group or finish bottom of it. It was best, perhaps, to leave nothing to chance.
By now, Glenswilly had some wind in their sails and with Gary McFadden and a Murphy penalty putting them 2-5 to 0-5 up at the break, ran out 3-12 to 0-7 winners on a hugely impressive show. Darren McGinley scored their third goal.
“It was hard enough to watch last week’s game against Dungloe,” the Donegal captain said afterwards. “I enjoyed getting out there and hopefully I’ll get a bit of training before the next round of games.[adrotate group=”46”]
“We’re a tight group out there and we know what we can do. The response has been quite good. It hasn’t been near perfect, but there is a big rebuilding going on.”
Glenswilly overpowered MacCumhaill’s in the quarter-final 2-20 to 1-14 but their display was still considered patchy and then were perhaps even less convincing in that two-point victory over Malin in the last four.
They’re a panel of players, though, that freely admit that sometimes it’s easier for them to do things the hard way.
For there to be an upset in the final, it was suggested that there would have to be Saturday night rain dances in the Glen.
Kilcar’s candle was being burned from far outside of Towney. Meanwhile, in Glenswilly, where its folk sometimes have the reputation of well, not being the quietest, you could hear a pin drop.
The theory was that for Glenswilly to have any chance they needed to be in the match at half-time.
As it turned out, they were more than that. With a strong breeze at his back, Gallagher fired in a boomer to Murphy on 10 minutes and it was a trademarked opening goal. Murphy held off Conor McShane and drove past Eamonn McGinley.
At half-time the side managed by Canning were 1-7 to 0-6 in front. Kilcar tried to make inroads in the second half and threw everything at it. Ryan McHugh would score three in all, with Patrick McBrearty tipping over five times. Some even claimed the wind had changed direction.
Ciaran Gibbons points for Glenswilly in Sunday’s Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC final despite the close attention of Kilcar’s Mark McHugh. Photo: Geraldine Diver
Ciaran Gibbons scored two vital points. Last year the wing-back played in the victorious Glenswilly team in the reserve final against Ardara, on a poignant moment for the side managed by Adrian Glackin following the death of his late father Finbarr – a founding member of the club.
But Glenswilly were always in front and although Mark Sweeney’s late point meant that Kilcar’s deficit was down to a single point, 1-10 to 0-12, there was to be no replay for McHugh’s team after a long-range McBrearty free was gathered by Gallagher.
And with that, it was over.
Kilcar were devastated and having brought some spectacular football to the county this season, their day will surely come. It’s often said that you may even have to lose a final to win one in the future and Glenswilly certainly learned from their 0-12 to 1-3 loss to neighbours St Eunan’s in the 2007 showpiece.
“Everyone was writing us off,” Caolan Kelly said afterwards on Sunday. “It was nearly disrespectful. We went from 3/1 to 6/1 this morning in the bookies – not that I’m a betting man – but I thought ‘what’s going on here?’ We’ve come out and tried to fight and dig our way out.”
Murphy, on the day, scored 1-5 and the scenes at the final whistle as he embraced his father Mick with sheer delirium etched across both their faces is one of the firmest reasons why there’s such enjoyment from club football.
In Glenswilly’s third ever county senior final win, the Peadar McGeehin trophy will make its way to Bomany to the Murphy family home for the third time.
Ann McGeehin presents Glenswilly’s Michael Murphy with the man of the match award – in memory of her husband the late Peadar – following on Sunday evening. Photo: Geraldine Diver
“I was speechless back in 2011 but I am even more speechless now,” Neil Gallagher said afterwards. “I have never been in involved in a game like it. We were given no hope and in fairness Kilcar were flying but I just can’t believed it and this is just the best ever feeling”.
Maybe it was a triumph of experience over innocence, or even the perfect storm.
Some day soon they’ll stop writing off Glenswilly. Some day soon.Tags: