IN THE rapidly diminishing light, referee Mark Dorrian decided that there would be no extra time and instead sent a dramatic Donegal MFC semi-final to a replay.
Naomh Conaill 0-12 Gaoth Dobhair 2-6
Second-half goals from Odhrán McFadden and Conor Boyle looked to have propelled Gaoth Dobhair – the defending minor champions – back into the final.
But they still needed a tense free from Michael Carroll, five minutes into added time, to get another bite at the cherry.
Even then it wasn’t straightforward. Carroll’s first attempt tailed to the left and wide but Dorrian ordered a re-take after adjudging Naomh Conaill to have encroached as the midfielder was taking aim.
Carroll made no mistake with his second effort.
With the teams readying themselves for an extra period, the Gaeil Fhánada official called a halt to proceedings and it was the right call for both sides deserve a proper crack rather than a potential dangerous lottery in near darknees.
Tom ‘Beag’ Gillespie’s Gaoth Dobhair, including no less than eight survivors from their final win over Dungloe-Na Rossa in December, turned the tables on Naomh Conaill with a second-half goal blitz.
Gaoth Dobhair entered this evening’s ounty minor semi-final having won the Northern Minor Board Division 1 Championship last month
Spurred on by the excellent Eoghan McGettigan – who contributed seven points – Naomh Conaill led 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time.
While McGettigan kept the scoreboard ticking in the second half, it was those goals that proved their weight in gold for the Magheragallon men.
In the 37th minute, Michael Carroll sent his midfield colleague, Odhrán McFadden, on his way.
McFadden drove right at the Naomh Conaill heart and slammed a powerful effort beyond the reach of the goalkeeper, Tony Byrne.
Seven minutes later, they were in for a second, this time in rather more fortunate circumstances.
Gaoth Dobhair worked the ball up the left channel and Boyle’s lofted effort dropped over Byrne and into the net for a goal not unlike Lee Keegan’s for Mayo against Donegal in this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
McGettigan (3), Jono Molloy and Paul McGuinness had Naomh Conaill in the driving seat again before those tense late moments saw Gaoth Dobhair salvage the embers from the fire.
They’ve become masters of the late ones as a Daire Ó Baoill goal in the 66th minute of the Northern Board final secured that title at St Eunan’s expense.
Carroll magnificently found the range with a seventh-minute free to open the scoring, but Naomh Conaill soon settled.
After David Keeney sent McFadden crashing to the floor, Carroll curled over from the right flank, not far in from the sideline. While his umpire called it wide, referee Mark Dorrian awarded the score.
Ethan O’Donnell levelled it up in the 12th minute and McGettigan put the Glenties boys in front less than a minute later after O’Donnell picked him out with a fine pass through the middle.
Carroll swung over in style, but McGettigan (free) and JD Boyle, after great link-up play with Cian Doherty, put Naomh Conaill two ahead.
The first half ended in something of a tit-for-tat fashion as Eamon Collum and McGettigan swapped points before Carroll (free) and Boyle, after another give-and-go – this time with Matias McKelvey – did likewise.
At the switchover, Naomh Conaill – who only lost the Southern Board final on Monday night – were two in front.
They were final-bound when McGuinness kicked them in front in the dying minutes, but Carroll secured Gaoth Dobhair another day out.
Naomh Conaill: Tony Byrne; Ultan Doherty, Charlie McDonnell, Cian Doherty; Matias McKelvey, Logan Quinn, David Keeney; Ethan O’Donnell (0-1), Reece McDyre; Paul McGuinness (0-1), Ciaran Gallagher, JD Boyle (0-2); Jack Flannery, Eoghan McGettigan (0-7, 4f), Oliver Stanislawczyk. Subs: Jono Molloy (0-1) for Keeney (51), Shane McDevitt for Stanislawczyk (black card, 60).
Gaoth Dobhair: Gavin Sweeney; Conor McFadden, Gary McFadden, Ciaran McHugh; Conor McCafferty, Ryan Kelly, Neasan Mac Giolla Bhríde; Michael Carroll (0-4, 3f), Odhrán McFadden (1-0); Naoise Ó Baoill, Seaghan Ferry, Daire Ó Baoill; Joe McFadden, Conor Boyle (1-1), Eamon Collum (0-1). Sub: Dan Gallagher for D.Ó Baoill (50).
Referee: Mark Dorrian (Gaeil Fhánada).