THE TEAM they can’t kill have rarely seemed as alive: Naomh Conaill scored a dramatic win over Gaoth Dobhair in the second replay of the Donegal SFC final.
Naomh Conaill 0-8 Gaoth Dobhair 0-7
By Chris McNulty at Sean MacCumhaill Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
John O’Malley’s point in the final minute will go down in Glenties folklore.
After around three-and-a-half hours of action, finally there was a winner as O’Malley tucked over and draw the marathon to a conclusion.
Naomh Conaill, the beaten finalists in 2017 and 2018, needed late points in normal time over the last two Sunday’s to stay in the race, but now they have their hands on Dr Maguire for a fourth time.
With 70 seconds to play, Eamonn Collum tied things up with a free his side had been fortunate to get, but O’Malley squeezed over to take the prize.
Naomh Conaill have stayed standing amid a flurry of body blows over the last three campaigns, but Martin Regan’s men have stayed firm. And now they have Donegal football’s most coveted prize after a gripping trilogy to dethrone the 13-man Ulster champions.
Eamon McGee was sent off for his part in a clash with Eoin Waide as the teams left the pitch at half-time.
The mercury rose and Waide was on the floor as the players and mentors collided.
Referee Seamus McGonagle issued McGee with a red card before resuming play,
Michael Carroll was black carded for pulling down Nathan Byrne in the closing minutes and, to add to Gaoth Dobhair’s woe, Odhrán McFadden-Ferry was sent off in added time.
Naomh Conaill held a slender 0-5 to 0-4 lead at half-time and Ciaran Thompson’s huge point on 42 minutes put three between them.
Carroll – with his third of the night – ended a 20-minute spell without a Gaoth Dobhair score and it was all to play for when Odhrán Mac Niallais curled over in style, but it was to be Naomh Conaill’s night.
Just to add to the drama, the throw-in was delayed by ten minutes to allow the big crowd make their way into the venue.
Naomh Conaill were dealt a hammer blow with Waide unable to overcome the hamstring injury that forced him out of Sunday’s drawn encounter after 44 minutes.
Former Donegal panelist Marty Boyle came into the starting XV – his first start since the group stage win over Killybegs on the Championship’s opening night in early September.
Cian Mulligan popped Gaoth Dobhair into the lead after 68 seconds, but Naomh Conaill kicked the next three points to move in front.
In spite of playing 140 energy-sapping minutes over the previous ten days, the scores were quite something. Charles McGuinness drilled over a 45-metre free and Ciaran Thompson sailed over from a ’45.
A little later, Leo McLoone landed a beauty off the outside of his right boot to give Naomh Conaill a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage after 20 minuets.
Gaoth Dobhair spurned three chances in the first quarter-of-an-hour, dropping two placed balls short in that time, but Michael Carroll doubled their tally when he found a pocket of space.
Gaoth Dobhair – without cruciate victims Kieran Gillespie and Christopher McFadden – welcomed the teak-tough Odhrán McFadden-Ferry back into their line-up after he sat out Sunday’s clash, with James Ó Baoill dropping to the bench.
Ethan O’Donnell – who was named as the Man of the Match – raised the roof of the Glenties contingent, but Mulligan reduced the arrears once more for the holders.
Naomh Conaill held sway at the interval, but only just.
That they had the thinnest of margins to spare at the end will hardly matter.
Naomh Conaill: Stephen McGrath; Ultan Doherty, AJ Gallagher, Kevin McGettigan; Ethan O’Donnell (0-1), Anthony Thompson, Marty Boyle; Ciaran Thompson (0-2, 1 ’45), Leo McLoone (0-1); Brendan McDyer, Eoghan McGettigan, Eunan Doherty; Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí (0-1), Charles McGuinness (0-2f), Kieran Gallagher. Subs: Stephen Molloy for Boyle (39), Dermot Molloy for McDyer (43), Nathan Byrne for McGuinness (47), John O’Malley (0-1) for Mac Ceallabhuí (50), Marty Boyle for K.Gallagher (56), Hughie Gallagher for McGettigan (64).
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Gary McFadden, Neil McGee, Seaghan Ferry; Niall Friel, Dan McBride, Dáire Ó Baoill; Michael Carroll (0-3), Eamon McGee; Odhrán McFadden-Ferry, Odhrán Mac Niallais (0-1), Naoise Ó Baoill; Cian Mulligan (0-2), Kevin Cassidy, Gavin McBride. Subs: James Ó Baoill for G.McBride (34), Peter McGee for Ferry (51), Eamonn Collum (0-1f) for Carroll (55, black card)
Referee: Seamus McGonagle (Aodh Ruadh).Tags: