THERE WAS NO doubt over who took the Dr Maguire home but there’s bound to be plenty of debate here.
Naomh Conaill’s 0-11 to 0-10 win over St Eunan’s on Sunday might still be being celebrated in Glenties and the surrounding areas. It was the Davy Brennan Memorial Park club’s third title – adding to their successes in 2005 and 2010 – and now Martin Regan and his team have an Ulster Club SFC quarter-final against Trillick from Tyrone to look forward to.
Here at Donegal Sport Hub, we’ve been looking back and after much deliberation, with the margins of some of the victories in the knock-out rounds putting paid to some hopes, here’s what we came up with:
1- John Paul Clarke (St Eunan’s)
After getting the curly finger from Maxi Curran in the first round clash with Naomh Conaill, Clarke returned and didn’t conceded a goal in the knock-out rounds. His kick-outs worked well and he made vital saves, particularly from Christy Toye of St Michael’s in the semi-final and Leon Thompson from Naomh Conaill in the final itself.
2 – Aaron Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
The story of the four Thompson brothers is a special one and Aaron – who was previously a fringe player at best – has perhaps the best tale of the lot. His chance seemed to have passed him by but he proved himself to be a no-nonsense defender and when the chance arose at the other end, he popped over the point that ultimately won the title for Naomh Conaill.
3 – Conor Parke (St Eunan’s)
Parke’s goal against St Michael’s in the semi-final – when he nonchalantly dinked the ball over Mark Anthony McGinley – was one of the best we’d seen over the course of the championship and his abilities going forward are growing week on week, adding to his capabilities as a defender.
4 -Caolan Ward (St Eunan’s)
Ward spent the summer in Philadelphia but was still a considerable presence in Maxi Curran’s side over the course of the entire championship. His performances went from stride to stride and come the final day, Ward, who can play anywhere across the back-line or even centre-field was St Eunan’s best player.
5 – Ryan McHugh (Kilcar)
The younger of the McHugh brothers was highly impressive as Kilcar made their way to the last four before a heavy defeat against Naomh Conaill. McHugh’s link between defence and attack – which was particularly evident against Four Masters in the last eight – was a vital ingredient for the Towney based side.
6 – Anthony Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
Thompson mightn’t have been the man actually lifting the Dr Maguire – something he did do five years ago – but he’s certainly one of the leaders of the Glenties team. His physical approach to the Group 2 meeting with St Eunan’s in Letterkenny set a template for Naomh Conaill’s season and his consistency remained throughout.
7 – Eoin Waide (Naomh Conaill)
Waide, who captained Donegal to their Ulster minor success of 2006, had an impressive final against St Eunan’s from the wing-back berth on Sunday, as well as giving assured performances over the course of the season as a whole – workmanlike against Termon and effective against Kilcar in the knock-outs.
8 – Kevin Rafferty (St Eunan’s)
Rafferty stood out in a number of St Eunan’s fixtures, particularly the wins over Ardara on opening day as well as the quarter-final and semi-final successes over Glenswilly and St Michael’s respectively. He looked to be on his way to a seventh senior championship only for Naomh Conaill to pip the Letterkenny side by a single point.
9 – Ciaran Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
Thompson, the youngest of the four brothers from Glenties who featured in Sunday’s final, has had a very commendable 2015. Arguably Donegal Under-21’s player of the championship, he’s been elevated to the senior panel and is also an ever-growing presence in the Naomh Conaill midfield. Capped his year to date with his side’s first point on Sunday and played a firm part in their victory.
10 – Rory Kavanagh (St Eunan’s)
In the end, Kavanagh ended up with nothing on Sunday as he and St Eunan’s were, after a good start, eclipsed by his former county teammate Leo McLoone and Naomh Conaill late in the day. However, the St Eunan’s midfielder was the conductor for his team in their impressive victories over Ardara in Group 2 and in the knock-out rounds. On his day, one of the best – if not the best – club player in the county.
11 – Leo McLoone (Naomh Conaill)
When the final reached something of a Twilight Zone 10 minutes in the second and St Eunan’s stuck in an 0-8 to 0-6 lead, the game was calling out for someone to take control. Enter Leo McLoone, who had excellent in previous outings, to drive Naomh Conaill over the line and it was fitting that it was McLoone who lifted both the Dr Maguire Cup and the Peadar McGeehin Man of the Match award.
12 – Stephen McBrearty (Kilcar)
McBrearty is a player who is equally adept in a number of positions and was certainly one of the stars of the group stages. He continued that form into the last eight with a man of the match performance against Four Masters in Fintra before Kilcar came undone in the last four by Naomh Conaill.
13- Leon Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
One of the best ball winners on the domestic scene. Leon Thompson was Naomh Conaill’s cutting edge in a number of matches, particularly their 2-12 to 0-8 win over St Eunan’s in Group 2 in Letterkenny. He continued that form when some of his teammates were perhaps below par against Termon and was again in the front line in both the semi-final against Kilcar and the final win on Sunday.
14 – Rory Carr (St Eunan’s)
The St Eunan’s full-forward played in the 2014 senior championship and had added to his reputation in 2015. His style of play inside and accuracy from placed balls has offered the Letterkenny side a new dimension and he was particularly impressive in the semi-final win over St Michael’s, having given a good account of himself against Glenswilly in the last eight.
15 – Andrew Kelly (St Michael’s)
Kelly and his club from the Bridge in Dunfanaghy will be disappointed at how their championship petered out but they were perhaps the form team for the first four sets of fixtures. Another player who reputation has improved over the last number of months, Kelly scored four goals in St Michael’s first four championship outings in 2015.Tags: