DAIRE O’BAOILL scored a hat-trick of first half goals as magical Gaoth Dobhair sealed their place in the final of the Ulster Club SFC following a thrilling win over Crossmaglen Rangers.
Gaoth Dobhair 4-11 Crossmaglen Rangers 0-16
An Ulster final against Scotstown awaits in two weeks time, with goalkeeper Rory Beggan the hero for the Monaghan champions in a dramatic 1-14 to 2-10 win over Derry’s Eoghan Rua from Coleraine early today at Healy Park.
After a whirlwind first half from Gaoth Dobhair, Kevin Cassidy added a fourth goal in the second as Crossmaglen lost both Johnny Hanratty and Rian O’Neill – the scorer of nine points – to second half sendings off. The first was at a vital stage at the beginning of part two, whilst the second came when the contest had long-since been packed up.
Crossmaglen pressed Gaoth Dobhair very high up a the field and while there’s obvious benefits to such a policy, it did give the the team from Magheragallon plenty of space to run into if and when they broke the seal. They made full value of that to first of all produce a lead and then to keep it.
And that’s exactly how the first two of Ó Baoill’s goals came. They were carbon copies of one another before he slammed home the third from a penalty.
The opener came on 10 minutes when he ran into space having been found by the masterful Odhran MacNiallais and thumping the ball past Jamie McEvoy, low and hard, into the bottom corner.
Then, just four minutes later, Ó Baoill did the same again with a similar lung-bursting run – this time with Cian Mulligan laying on the pass. That made it 2-3 to 0-4 for Gaoth Dobhair and those who backed the pre-match outsiders something to really believe in.
Beforehand, Eamon Collum, MacNiallais and Mulligan had scored points. MacNiallais, of course, had missed the quarter-final win over Antrim’s Cargin through injury.
Odhran McFadden-Ferry was also back having picked up a dead leg in the domestic final win over Naomh Conaill, although Kieran Gillespie’s part in the journey has since been confirmed as over having picked up a cruciate injury in west Belfast.
Gaoth Dobhair’s third goal, today, came from a penalty when Mulligan was adjudged to have been fouled by Garvan Carragher and Ó Baoill, on 26 minutes, drove under McEvoy for his third goal of the first half.
Crossmaglen had opened with two fine scores from Oisin O’Neill and at the end of the half, managed to piece together a four-point series of scores with Rian O’Neill a pivotal figure. Despite their first half heroics, Gaoth Dobhair would’ve been glad to hear Joe McQuillan’s whistle.
So, after a breathless half hour it was 3-5 to 0-9 for Gaoth Dobhair.
David McKenna was introduced at the break to bring a more physical presence inside for Donal Murtagh’s team and within seconds a ball spilled off Neil McGee and the substitute rammed an effort at goal that was blocked by … you’ve guessed it … Dáire Ó Baoill.
Crossmaglen’s chances suffered a huge blow when Hanratty was given a second yellow – this time for a heavy challenge on Christopher McFadden. And although Crossmaglen were chipping away, their advanced starting position and numerical disadvantage always played into Gaoth Dobhair’s hands. There was always an out-ball.
Gaoth Dobhair were constantly dangerous on the break, although it was Kevin Cassidy’s anticipation that played the vital part in goal number four. The former Donegal captain was on hand to pick up the loose change and shoot home a rebound from close range following a shot from Michael Carroll for a point that rebounded down off the upright. That made it 4-7 to 0-11 on 43 minutes.
Although a team of Crossmaglen’s quality were never going to throw in the towel. There was, though, a certain inevitability from then on.
Rian O’Neill kept the scoreboard ticking over but Crossmaglen needed a goal and Christopher Sweeney was never tested in the second half bar one smart save from McKenna in the second minute of injury time.
In injury time, Rian O’Neill’s frustration boiled over and his flooring of James Boyle led to a straight red.
For Gaoth Dobhair, Carroll, Collum and Niall Friel all added scores to confirm their place in the final. Donegal have not had a winner in the competition since the now defunct St Joesph’s in 1975 and have had only three beaten finalists since – Killybegs in 1991, Naomh Conaill in 2010 and Glenswilly three years later.
For Donegal’s most decorated club, it’s their biggest victory yet – against Crossmaglen, with six All-Ireland titles and 11 Ulsters in the cabinet since 1996.
Victory over Scotstown would beat that.
Gaoth Dobhair: Christopher Sweeney; Gary McFadden, Neil McGee, Christopher McFadden; Niall Friel (0-1), Dan McBride, Dáire Ó Baoill (3-0, 1-0 pen); Michael Carroll, Odhrán Mac Niallais (0-4, 1f); Odhrán McFadden-Ferry, Eamon McGee, Naoise Ó Baoill; Eamon Collum (0-2, 1f), Kevin Cassidy (1-2), Cian Mulligan (0-1). Subs: Peter McGee for D McBride (43), James Carroll for Collum (47), James Boyle for McFadden-Ferry (52), Seaghan Ferry (0-1) for N Ó Baoill (58), McCafferty for E McGee (60+5)
Crossmaglen Rangers: Jamie McEvoy; Rico Kelly, Alan Farrelly, Garvan Carragher; Aaron Kernan, James Morgan, Paul Hughes; Stephen Morris, Oisin O’Neill (0-2); Johnny McKeever, Johnny Hanratty (0-1), Gavin Cumiskey; Tony Kernan (0-2, 1f), Rian O’Neill (0-9, 5f), Kyle Carragher (0-2). Subs: Aidan Rushe for G Carragher (27), David McKenna for J McKeever (half-time), Cian McConville for T Kernan (47), Padraig Stuttard for Hughes (48), Niall Boyce for Carragh (58)
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).