St Eunan’s 0-9 Glenswilly 0-6
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
St Eunan’s had won four of the last seven Donegal titles but with a fleet of young players and a new manager, the Letterkenny side weren’t considered among the favourites six weeks ago, or even tipped by many to win yesterday morning.
Glenswilly, their neighbours who dwell just four miles out the same road out from Letterkenny, had last year triumphed for the second time in three seasons on their way to the Ulster club championship final.
However, Maxi Curran, the St Eunan’s manager, managed to retain four of the club stalwarts this season, with Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Rafferty, John Haran and Conall Dunne all providing a base of experience to guide the new talent along.
Yesterday, in Ballybofey, at the end of a whistle-stop six-week championship, it was St Eunan’s name on the Dr Maguire Cup once more. It’s their 14th crown, which brings them level with previous record-holders Gaoth Dobhair.
Although their geographical proximity is close, their styles were anything but. Glenswilly play a powerhouse match, capable of changing the direction of a contest in one throw of the dice, while St Eunan’s used a calm and controlled possession game.
In the end, St Eunan’s managed to keep Glenswilly to just the one point from play and that was the foundation stone of their three-point win.
In a tense first half, St Eunan’s lost Rafferty to a serious eye injury and Haran, who turns 38 tomorrow, manned the midfield manfully with Kavanagh.
By 23 minutes, three Conall Dunne points and one from Gibbons had edged St Eunan’s into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with Gary McFadden having registered Glenswilly’s only point.
But it was then Michael Murphy showed his ability to click up through the gears. He went on one rampaging run on 25 minutes, straight as an arrow as St Eunan’s players bounced off him, before being grounded by Michéal Martin.
Murphy, irritated to see his path blocked, stroked over the free and then another from the shadow of the stand almost 45 metres out after Brian Farrelly’s effort for Glenswilly.
Glenswilly, despite having not played anywhere near their capabilities, were level at 0-4 to 0-4 and would’ve gone in level at half-time had St Eunan’s not edged ahead again through Gibbons.
After the break St Eunan’s managed to continue in ticking the scoreboard over with poised moves. Gibbons, Sean McVeigh and Conor Parke — three more of the younger players in Curran’s side — all posted second- half points to see them over the line.
“Nobody gave them a chance at the start of the year,” Curran said afterwards. “They were ‘too young’, ‘in transition’, this and that. I always believed and I always knew the talent that was in the group. I believed that they could do it — thank God they have.”
St Eunan’s now welcome the Fermanagh champions Roslea Shamrocks to Letterkenny in the Ulster club championship quarter-final next Sunday.
ST EUNAN’S: S Daffan; C Parke (0-1), M Martin, C Morrison; C Ward, E Doherty, D Mulgrew; K Rafferty, R Kavanagh; C Gibbons (0-2), C Dunne (0-5, 4f), S McVeigh (0-1); R Carr, J Haran, S Hensey.
Subs: M McGowan for Rafferty (11), D Gallagher for Martin (43).
GLENSWILLY: G McGrenra; A McDevitt, E Ward, R Crawford; B McDaid, L Kelly, C Callaghan; N Gallagher, C Bonner; J Gibbons, G McFadden (0-2, 2f); B Farrelly (0-1); D McGinley, M Murphy (0-3, 2f 45), O Crawford.
Subs: C Gallagher for Bonner (35), K McFadden for Farrelly (48).
Referee: M Coll (Gaoth Dobhair).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved