THE CHAMPIONS STILL STAND tall as St Eunan’s overcame Glenswilly in soaking Sean MacCumhaill Park.
St Eunan’s 3-07 Glenswilly 0-08
Maxi Curran’s men had emerged from their group with plenty of question marks hanging over them and a heavy 2-12 to 0-8 defeat by Naomh Conaill meant they qualified for the quarter-finals in second place.
When the draw handed them a repeat of last year’s final and a meeting with Glenswilly, their most fierce of derby rivals, there were plenty who felt that Dr Maguire would have to find a new home.
But it was the black and amber who held sway and as they huddled in the Ballybofey rain afterwards there was the clear message: ‘We haven’t gone away, you know’.
Lee McMonagle’s penalty helped St Eunan’s lead 1-4 to 0-5 at half-time and second half three-pointers from Conall Dunne and McMonagle handed St Eunan’s an eight-point win over their cross-parish rivals.
Glenswilly were in touch until St Eunan’s put paid to their hopes with two goals inside a deadly five-minute spell midway through the second half.
On 45 minutes, Kevin Rafferty’s deft flick sent John Haran on his way. With a surge forward that belied his 38 years, Haran carved Glenswilly open and he transferred to Dunne, who neatly stepped around goalkeeper Philip O’Donnell before tapping home.
Red mist fell over Sean MacCumhaill Park, Glenswilly’s Brian Farrelly sent off for a foul on Rory Carr and Rory Kavanagh given a second yellow card and his marching orders for his part in the ensuing scuffle.
When order was restored, the previously dazed Carr drove forward to tee up McMonagle for his second goal, the number 15 palming home from close range.
St Eunan’s hadn’t threatened much in the early exchanges with Caolan Ward – just back from a summer in America – firing their best chance wide of the target.
But by the 16th minute they were back on level terms thanks to two points inside of a minute.
Conor Parke, a defender by trade, got forward for a point that has now become a trademark and Rafferty took a pass off Mark McGowan – on as a ninth-minute replacement for the injured Daragh Mulgrew – to chop over the equalising point.
Glenswilly began with Michael Murphy winning possession from the throw-in, drawing a foul and sailing over a fantastic free out of his hands from 50 metres.
The McFadden brothers combined to double the lead in the seventh minute, Kealen feeding Gary who slammed between the sticks.
It proved a false dawn for Glenswilly, who had a 22-minute barren spell.
Gary McFadden was wide with a free that would generally be bread-and-butter stuff and St Eunan’s hit the front for the first time thanks to a Conall Dunne free on 20 minutes after captain Kavanagh – playing his first game since returning from Boston – was fouled.
Then came the penalty that gave St Eunan’s a real platform. Ward found Haran, whose ball across goal was flicked down by Glenswilly ‘keeper Philip O’Donnell, with McMonagle lurking intently.
McMonagle picked up the pieces and was taken down by Oisin Crawford. When the dust settled, McMonagle brilliantly fired the penalty high past O’Donnell to establish a four-point lead.
Murphy, from a free, notched Glenswilly’s first score in what seemed an eternity and, instantly, Darren McGinley hoofed over from distance.
It might have been a one-point game but, after Neil Gallagher was taken down having played a claustrophobic one-two with Brian Farrelly, Murphy elected to go for goal from the free but his 13-metre shot, low and hard, was cleared.
Rory Carr and Gary McFadden exchanged points in added time and, when breath was drawn, St Eunan’s took a 1-4 to 0-5 lead into the changeover.
Conor Gibbons threaded St Eunan’s three ahead before Glenswilly squandered a superb goal chance six minutes into the new half.
Caolan Kelly fed Murphy, who perfectly found Aidan McDevitt in front of goal, but it was the wrong man in the right place as the centre-back prodded wide with only John Paul Clarke to beat.
Nine minutes later, Dunne netted and there was no way back when McMonagle palmed home his second and St Eunan’s third.
The coup de grâce was added by Haran as his late score sealed an eight-point winning margin.
Glenswilly: Philip O’Donnell; Cormac Callaghan, Eamon Ward, Joe Gibbons; Oisin Crawford, Aidan McDevitt, Ruairi Crawford; Neil Gallagher, Michael Murphy (0-4, 4f); Caolan Kelly, Gary McFadden (0-3, 1f), Ciaran Bonner; Kealan McFadden, Darren McGinley (0-1), Brian Farrelly. Subs: Cathal Gallagher for McGinley (40), Leon Kelly for O.Crawford (53).
St Eunan’s: John Paul Clarke; Caolan Ward, Sean Hensey, Conor Parke (0-1); Peter Devine, Rory Kavanagh, Eamonn Doherty; Kevin Rafferty (0-1), John Haran (0-1); Conall Dunne (1-1, 1f), Darragh Mulgrew, Sean McVeigh; Lee McMonagle (2-1, 1-0pen) Rory Carr (0-1), Conor Gibbons (0-1). Subs: Mark McGowan for Mulgrew (9), Patrick McGowan for Dunne (60), Ciaran Sharkey for McMonagle (60).
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs).