NAOMH COLMCILLE booked their place in the Donegal Under-21 ‘B’ final after defeating Killybegs in an absorbing, heart-stopping semi-final in Convoy.
Naomh Colmcille 5-11 Killybegs 3-12 (after extra time)
The pendulum might have swung either way during a sometimes chaotic game that appeared beyond Ryan McKinley’s team, but from somewhere their never-say-die spirit and their better all-round balance took them to the decider.
Willie Gillespie landed 2-4, with Gavin McDaid netting twice and Daniel Clarke also netting as Naomh Colmcille needed extra time to win.
They were eight points down and seemingly on their way out of the game after only ten minutes and when Gillespie netted the third Naomh Colmcille goal late in normal time they looked home and hosed, only for Paul Cunningham’s goal and Eoghan Ban Gallagher’s point to force extra time.
Gillespie beat Killybegs ‘keeper Brandon McGinley for a goal in the first period of extra time, ghosting in to palm home from Clarke’s pass.
One of the key moments came early in the second period of the extra time when Naomh Colmcille goalkeeper Gary McDaid denied Eoghan Ban Gallagher with a magnificent save. Gallagher surged forward from the throw-in, but say McDaid, full-length to his right, beat away the powerful drive.
Owen Gallagher then saw a blistering shot crash off the crossbar and Naomh Colmcille made safe their passage to the final when Clarke polished off an excellent team move. Gavin McDaid and Gillespie combined and Clarke strode forward before a deft finish sealed a five-point win that seemed impossible just over an hour earlier.
It felt like an age since that time when Killybegs led by six at half-time, 2-7 to 1-4, with Ryan Ward’s 28th minute goal coming after a purple patch had hauled Naomh Colmcille right back into the tie.
John Ban Gallagher’s goal in the second minute helped Killybegs lead by eight, but Naomh Colmcille conjured up a fightback and when Gavin McDaid fired past McGinley the margin was down to just three points. McDaid found the eye of a needle to slot home after Lynch’s free dropped short.
The Killybegs comeback was instant, though, and a quick transfer saw them bag their second goal as the influential McFadden fed Ryan Ward and he found the net.
It meant that, just when Naomh Colmcille looked to have got a lifeline and were about to cling on, the rope was pulled from their grasp.
Naomh Colmcille lined out without the likes of Oisin Hassett, sitting exams in Limerick, while Brett McGinty and Jason Quinn missed out because of injuries and Peter Scot is in Dublin on trial with the Ireland Under-19 rugby team.
But they had a second chance – and they made it count.
Killybegs asserted their dominance in the early stages and looked to have had the game in the bag by the time Naomh Colmcille landed their first score, courtesy of a Michael Lynch free in the 12th minute.
The opening goal arrived after just 90 seconds when John Ban Gallagher smashed to the net after McDaid parried an effort from Daniel O’Keeney.
12 seconds in, Mark Hegarty had popped over a point and, with Hugh McFadden landing three early scores, one a beauty from a long-range free, and Ryan Ward in on the act as Manus Boyle’s side led 1-5 to no score.
Naomh Colmcille did summons a response and hit three in a row, two expertly converted placed balls by Lynch followed by a fine curling point by Gillespie.
In the opening ten minutes of part two, Gillespie found his groove and three points from the former Donegal panellist reduced the arrears to four points.
McFadden stemmed the flow after he broke through and Killybegs survived a real scare when the ball broke to Gavin McDaid, but he drove wide of the far post.
Naomh Colmcille, for whom Stephen Gallagher was excellent and Gillespie, Clarke, Oran Hilley and Michael Friel were all to the fore, drew level with Gillespie and David McNamee hitting points before McDaid scored his second goal. The leveller was swung over by Clarke and it was a wonderful, sailing score from 35 metres.
Gallagher arched them in front for the first time with the score his display deserved and when Gillespie steered home after McGinley flapped at a long ball, it appeared as if that was that.
Cunningham then flicked home and Eoghan Ban forced the extra time, where Naomh Colmcille, with the experience of many of their players from reaching the Intermediate final all over this one, wrestled control.
Naomh Colmcille: Gary McDaid; Jordan McDaid, John Fullerton, Conor Matthewson; Oran Hilley, Michael Friel, Ryan Dowds; Daniel Clarke (1-1), Michael Lynch (0-3, 2f, 1 ’45); Willie Gillespie (2-4, 1f), Stephen Gallagher (0-1), David McNamee (0-1); Gavin McDaid (2-0), Conor Grant (0-1), Louis Cole. Subs: Cormac Friel for Cole (37).
Killybegs: Brandon McGinley; Conor Callaghan, Niall Carberry, Darragh McClean; David McGuinness, Eoghan Ban Gallagher (0-1), Owen Gallagher; Hugh McFadden (0-7, 3f, 2 ’45), Paul Cunningham (1-0); Mark Hegarty (0-1), Ryan Ward (1-1), Evan Broderick; Daniel O’Keeney, Rory McCallig (0-1), John Ban Gallagher (1-1). Sub: Brendan McCallig for Hegarty (49), Mark Diver for McCallig (57).
Referee: Enda McFeely (St Mary’s, Convoy).Tags: