Larceny on A grand scale is the only way to describe Naomh Conaill’s win over Gaoth Dobhair in Monday’s Donegal Comórtas Peile Na Gaeltachta U-15 final,at a windy Davy Brennan Memorial Park.
N Conaill 1-7 . . G Dobhair 1-6
The clock was deep in injury time and Gaoth Dobhair, with the near gale force wind in their backs, were up by two points, 1-6 to 0-7. And the boys in green had all the appearances of a team that had done enough to atone for last year’s heavy final defeat to Naomh Columba.
But in last desperate bid Naomh Conaill worked the ball forward and man of the match Nathan Byrne was hauled down on his way through a forest of defenders.
From the free the big midfielder drove a rasper to the net from 20 metres for a stunning goal and a 1-7 to 1-6 lead and a dramatic win. From the kick out referee Donal Doherty blew the final whistle.
Delight for Naomh Conaill and heartbreak for Gaoth Dobhair who were the more polished side over the hour. They had taken the fight to the locals from the off. Despite playing into the elements they were within two points off the locals at half-time.
Stephen McFadden’s goal on 19 minutes very much kept them in touch on the scoreboard. Despite playing with the howling wind Naomh Conaill did not register their first score until the 12th minute off the boot of Byrne.
And they posted the remainder of their six first half points in the next minutes with Mark Burke, Joseph Shanky Smith, Byrne and Leo Dunphy (two frees) splitting the Gaoth Dobhair posts.
For the rest of the half hour Gaoth Dobhair more than matched them all over the field. Liam McFadden posted the game’s opening point on four minutes and Stephen McFadden netted the Gaoth Dobhair’s. The strong running McFadden - Gaoth Dobhair’s best player - also hit the side netting twice in the first half, either side of his green flag. .
Though Dunphy scored the first of the second period, Gaoth Dobhair turned up the heat. Donal McBride, Cathal Gillespie and Jamie Doherty posted early white flags to tie up the contest for the first time.
With the wind in their sails, Gaoth Dobhair failed to kick on and a combination of extravagance in attack and number of wasteful wides close on 20 minutes passed before their next score.
But then two points in quick succession from Fiachra Coyle and Stephen McFadden propelled them into a 1-6 to 0-7 lead, with six minutes of normal time remaining.
With the door ajar Naomh Conaill raided and powerhouse Byrne did not look the gift horse in the mouth. And Gaoth Dobhair were left to rue their second half wastefulness.