Big guns fail to make last eight

There were some big casualties in the Raidió na Gaeltachta Donegal SFC at the weekend in its first season using first round groups.

Last year’s beaten finalists, Naomh Conaill of Glenties, St Michael’s from Dunfanaghy and Donegal Town’s Four Masters all failed to make the quarter-finals

Naomh Conaill had trailed Malin in their second of three group games last month by seven points but having surrendered to a draw, therefore left the window of opportunity open for the Inishowen side.

Malin needed to defeat Cloughaneely and pray St Eunan’s defeated Naomh Conaill with a combined 13-point swing over the two matches to seal an unlikely passage.

However, with reigning county champions St Eunan’s champing at the bit against Naomh Conaill in Letterkenny, the impossible soon seemed probable.

Two Donnacha Gallagher goals gave St Eunan’s a comfortable 2-10 to 1-3 interval lead, with all the hosts’ scores coming from play. Leo McLoone had netted for the below par visitors.

With Malin already nine points up, Naomh Conaill had to come out all guns blazing after the break and two quick-fire goals from Dermot Molloy and Leon Thompson in the 36th and 44th minutes had them within two points.

St Eunan’s lost Conall Dunne to a red card but, with Rory Kavanagh and Ross Wherity impressing, held on to win 2-15 to 3-9 and top Group 1 with three wins from three.

Naomh Conaill’s worst fears were confirmed when they learned Malin had steamrolled Cloughaneely 2-16 to 0-1 to join St Eunan’s in the last eight.

Kilcar’s opening round wins over both Glenswilly and St Michael’s meant one of the two 2011 finalists were going to miss out in Dunfanaghy.

Glenswilly used a strong wind to their advantage in the first half to lead 0-6 to 0-3, with Michael Murphy impressing.

It was a rearguard action then in the second half as St Michael’s played with the wind but although Colm McFadden kicked four points, Glenswilly held on to win 0-9 to 0-7.

Kilcar made sure of topping Group 4 with an easy win over a Bundoran side that have Brian McEniff in temporary charge, 2-19 to 0-7. Patrick McBrearty kicked 1-5, while Mark McHugh posted five points and Ciarán McGinley was also a goalscorer.

In Group 2, Karl Lacey was sprung from the bench for Four Masters as they trailed an already eliminated Glenfin after Conor Ward’s goal helped the visitors to a 1-7 to 0-5 lead in Donegal Town.

However, Lacey, who missed a first championship match for Donegal in nine seasons when he was forced to sit out the Ulster quarter-final following keyhole surgery on a knee cartilage injury, helped steady the ship. Barry Dunnion netted for the home team before Stephen Keeney’s injury time point sealed a 1-13 to 1-12 Four Masters win.

That result, though, wasn’t enough as Sean MacCumhaill’s won at Pearse Park in Ardara to top the pool. The home team, minus Paddy McGrath, join MacCumhaill’s in the second round on scoring average following a 0-13 to 1-8 win for the Ballybofey side with Martin O’Reilly scoring seven times.

Group 3 still has a series of fixtures to be completed but Gaoth Dobhair won 1-11 to 1-6 at neighbours Dungloe with Neil McGee the goalscorer, while Killybegs defeated Termon 0-9 to 0-8. Both Gaoth Dobhair and Killybegs have three points after two games and Dungloe and Termon sit on one apiece.

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