Seeing the year that’s in it, perhaps it was appropriate that a somewhat unconventional goal from Shane McGrath tipped the balance of power in the 2020 Intermediate Football Championship final, with Aodh Ruadh winning the title for the first time in their history.
Aodh Ruadh 2-14 Cloughaneely 1-12
It means after dropping to Division 3 not so long ago and losing finals in both 2012 and 2018, it’s a return to the senior bracket for the first time in a decade for the decorated Ballyshannon club.
On the flipside, for Cloughaneely, it was defeat in the final for the second year in succession. Aodh Ruadh joint-captain Johnny Gethins didn’t forget that in his post-match speech, reminding the Falcarragh club that they “never know where they’re beaten.”
At the second water break today it was level, Aodh Ruadh 0-11 to Cloughaneely’s 1-8 and as both emerged from their respective huddles, they’d have had similar messages ringing in their ears – it was there for whoever wanted it.
“A goal in the greatest freak of all time,” was how RTE commentator Michael O’Hehir described Mickey Sheehy’s goal for Kerry against Dublin in the 1978 All-Ireland final when he chipped the ball into the unguarded net.
There were similarities here with McGrath’s goal today, as he pinched an attempted short kick-out from the normally impeccable Shaun McClafferty and opted to drive early at goal with a piercing shot which flew like an arrow into the net on 48 minutes.
It was far from a freak – the finish was unerring when McGrath might’ve taken more time than he did to decide. McClafferty, a bit like like Paddy Cullen in 1978, looked like the fireman who had returned to find his station ablaze.
Then, seven minutes into seven minutes of injury time, with Cloughaneely committing men forward in vast numbers for something that would’ve scraped extra-time or even a winner, David McGurrin won possession.
Aodh Ruadh broke into a more socially distanced space than you’d ever see, with David Dolan squaring to Cian Dolan – sent off in the semi-final against Naomh Columba but successful on the appeal – to shoot past McClafferty for the second goal and the clincher.
In a surreal setting in the O’Donnell Park sunshine with Donegal’s moving onto Stage 3 meaning neither club were able to avail of their 85 tickets – 30 more were reserved for VIPs – there was an echoey feel throughout in this, the new norm.
But for perhaps a dozen opportunistic folk who positioned themselves outside of the fence at the Aura Centre side having hopped the stream and a handful of Garda, the attendance was confined to a handful of media, county board and club officials.
Aodh Ruadh made an industrious start, kicking the first three points inside of eight minutes, with Darren Drummond kicking two early ones either side of a point from Phillip Patton on the run, when going for goal certainly ran though his mind.
Cloughaneely sprung into gear to fire over three points on the spin to level it at 0-3 to 0-3 by the 11th minute, with John Fitzgerald, Martin Maguire and Shaun Maguire the scorers.
Then came the drama. Colm Kelly was adjudged by referee Siobhan Coyle to have fouled Ciaran McGeady with a sliding challenge on 12 minutes and from the penalty, Darren McGeever, who scored a penalty in the semi-final win over Buncrana, went close to the middle and Peter Boyle saved with his legs.
The goal did come, though, on 16 minutes when a long ball into the square from Martin Maguire and Sweeney was on hand to collect and turn to score the opening goal – his seventh in seven championship outings this term.
By the first half water break, Michael Lynch’s team were 1-4 to 0-5 in front, thanks to Cian McGeady’s score.
McGeever’s direct running was causing Aodh Ruadh problems at he looked to have won a second penalty for his team when he went down amid a clutter of bodies and perhaps even a foot block. Referee Coyle discussed the matter with her umpires and decided to award a wide.
Diamuid McInerney edged Aodh Ruadh ahead three minutes before the break, 0-8 to 1-4, only for Shaun Curran to equalize with a close range free and then edge his team in front at half-time. Cloughaneely were 1-6 to 0-8 in front.
Nathan Boyle levelled it with a stunning long-range free from all of 50 meters. Cloughaneely managed to go two in front, with Martin Maguire and Jason McGee scoring.
John Fitzgerald suffered a heavy, yet accidental collision with Sean Taylor, and had to be stretchered off clutching his shoulder as Jason McGee surprisingly missed the close-range free after the delay.
Oisin Rooney put over and then David McGurrin managed to score with his first touch and at the second water break it was all square, 1-8 for Cloughaneely and 0-11 for Aodh Ruadh. It was all to play for.
McGrath’s goal swung it Aodh Ruadh’s way/
For Cloghaneely, they were chasing again and doing it without their best forward. They do have a habit of giving themselves a lot to do and unfortunately for them, just like last year’s final, when they went to the well it was dry. McGurrin got another well-needed point for Aodh Ruadh as things became stretched.
Jason McGee did give them a chance with a couple of frees but was sent off in the depths of injury when the game was already lost. Off he went and Cloughaneely might well feel as if the gods are transpiring against them, while Aodh Ruadh are at last back in the Promised Land.
Aodh Ruadh: Peter Boyle; Conor Patton, Sean Taylor, Colm Kelly; Johnny Gethins, Eddie Lynch, Michael McKenna; Eamon McGrath, Darren Drummond (0-3); Diarmuid McInerney (0-2, 1f), Oisin Rooney (0-1), Philip Patton (0-4, 3f); Nathan Boyle (0-2, 2f), David Dolan, Shane McGrath (1-0). Subs: David McGurrin (0-2) for McInerney (45), Cian Dolan (1-0) for Rooney (60+2).
Cloughaneely: Shaun McClafferty; Michael Fitzgerald, Cian McFadden, Noel Sweeney; Ciaran McFadden, Darren McGeever, Shaun Curran (0-2, 1f); Martin Maguire (0-3), Jason McGee (0-3, 2f); Mark Harley, Kevin Mulhern, Ciaran McGeady (0-1); Shaun Maguire (0-2, 1f), Paul Sweeney (1-0), John Fitzgerald (0-1). Subs: Conor Coyle for Noel Sweeney (half-time), Michael McHugh for J Fitzgerald (43), Cian Doogan and Ciaran Scanlon for Curran and McGeady (57).
Referee: Siobhan Coyle (Gaeil Fhánada)Tags: