NIALL O’DONNELL’S goal, midway through the second half led the way as St Eunan’s peeled away from Ardara to win with 12 points to spare.
St Eunan’s 1-18 Ardara 1-6
By Chris McNulty at O’Donnell Park
O’Donnell hit the net and St Eunan’s added another seven points across the last 13 minutes of the game to claim an ultimately routine win. The Cathedral Town men were less-than-impressive for the most part, but they still managed to deservedly score a big win.
For long spells, Ardara – thanks to an early John Ross Molloy goal – hung onto the black and amber coats, but St Eunan’s peeled away in the closing stages.
Their big score arrived in the 44th minute. Sean McGettigan superbly plucked Shaun Patton’s kick out from the clouds. Via Eamonn Doherty the ball was worked to O’Donnell, who did the rest. After stepping inside of an Ardara defender, O’Donnell picked his spot and tucked into the Ardara net.
O’Donnell’s strike put St Eunan’s six in front and they added five points in quick succession to put the game firmly beyond Ardara’s reach. Ardara’s woe was compounded when goalscorer Molloy was sent off three minutes from the end. In all, St Eunan’s hit 1-7 over the final 16 minutes.
The victory moves St Eunan’s, for now at least, to the top of Group A, ahead of a trip to the Bridge next weekend to take on St Michael’s.
There were just eight minutes on the stopwatch when Molloy slotted beneath Shaun Patton to give Ardara the edge with the opening goal of the afternoon.
Molloy took a pass on the run from Johnny Sweeney, who made the telling incision. Sweeney’s pass enabled Molloy to finish low past Patton, who was one of eight Donegal players included on the Irish News Ulster All-Stars Team of the Year on Thursday night.
Gareth Concarr and Paul Watters had given Ardara a start to settle into the task, but Molloy’s goal came as a real jolt for the hosts, who had inched in front when Conor O’Donnell drilled over.
Ardara gave St Michael’s an early scare last Saturday at Pearse Park but, having skipped into a 2-3 to 0-1 lead after only seven minutes, they crashed to a 14-point loss, coming down on the wrong side of a 4-18 to 2-10 scoreline.
Adrian Brennan’s team sheet for the visit to the Cathedral Town showed three changes, with Nicholas Breslin, Tony Harkin and Niall McCrossan all absent from the XV.
St Eunan’s moved level when O’Donnell and Rory Carr, from a free, cancelled out Molloy’s three-pointer.
Robbie Adair – a goalscorer against St Michael’s – briefly restored the Ardara advantage, but it was the visitors’ only point of the last 22 minutes of the opening period.
St Eunan’s chugged along with O’Donnell, Carr – with a well-taken 45-metre free – and former Donegal star Rory Kavanagh giving them a 0-8 to 1-3 advantage at the short whistle.
When O’Donnell popped over the 17th minute, it left the board reading 0-6 to 1-3 – a replica of the final score from St Eunan’s stalemate against reigning champions Gaoth Dobhair last Sunday. After failing to get out of their group in the 2018 Championship, the black and amber, now under Richard Thornton’s management, were keen to avoid a similar pitfall here, though the first half-an-hour didn’t offer much by the way of optimism.
And yet, by the sixth minute of the second half, they were four to the good as Brian MacIntyre and Caolan Ward clipped over.
O’Donnell’s goal shook St Eunan’s and rocked Ardara all at once. It wasn’t long before the air of inevitability descended and St Eunan’s coasted home.
St Eunan’s: Shaun Patton; Conor Parke, Conor Morrison, Caolan Ward (0-1); Aaron Deeney, Rory Kavanagh (0-1), Daragh Mulgrew; Conor O’Donnell (0-3), Sean McGettigan; Eamonn Doherty, James Kelly, Brian MacIntyre; (0-3) Niall O’Donnell (1-5, 2f), Rory Carr (0-3f), Eoin McGeehan (0-1). Subs: Peter McEniff for Kavanagh (33), Conall Dunne for Carr (47), Jamie Doherty for Kelly (54), Conor Moore for Deeney (58), Sean Ryan for Mulgrew (60).
Ardara: Ciaran Gildea; John Ross Molloy (1-0), Matthew Maher, Johnny Herron; Lorcan O’Donnell, Brendan Boyle, Robbie Adair (0-1); Shane O’Donnell, Conor Classon; Paul Watters (0-1f), Jack Brennan, Tomas Boyle; Johnny Sweeney, Peter Oliver McNelis, Gareth Concarr (0-4, 3f). Subs: Kevin White for T.Boyle (27), Peter McHugh for McNelis (40), Eoghan Harkin for Classon (52), Matthew Sweeney for White (54).
Referee: Greg McGroary (Four Masters).Tags: