An injury time goal from John Friel sealed a fantastically entertaining U-13 Division 2 Championship final in Castlefin on Saturday to leave Fanad Gaels delirious and the majority of Naomh Columba’s panel in tears.
Fanad Gaels 5-10
Naomh Columba 2-17
It was difficult for either side to lose after a contest that ebbed and flowed with remarkable pace right from the first whistle. But while the Glencolumbkille team had two excellent performances from Lanty Molloy, a nephew of Donegal’s 1992 All-Ireland winning captain Anthony, and Aaron Doherty, Fanad ultimately had a string or two more to their bow.
However, that theory could easily have faltered in stoppage time when Eoin McGonagle in the Fanad goals saved a shot from Jordan Burns that would’ve won the title for Naomh Columba. The margins really were that thin.
Bernard McGettigan gave Fanad a blistering start with a goal inside of two minutes but Naomh Columba soon steadied themselves to move into a 1-5 to 1-2 lead, with Molloy grabbing their opening goal on 15 minutes after a daring run from centre-field.
Fanad, though, possessed an ability to unpick the opposition defence and posted two goals late in the first half, clinically dispatched and constructed by Mark McAteer. The diminutive corner-forward, who finished the day with 1-5, scored his team’s second on 22 minutes and then, two minutes later, played an incise pass into Shaun Kerr to make the score 3-3 to 1-8.
Naomh Columba, with whatever wind there was to be had, finished the half strongly with Doherty helping them into a 1-11 to 3-3 interval advantage - a stage in the afternoon where there still was an abundance of talking points.
Fanad’s management team of Aidan McAteer, Hughie Shiels, Patrick McAteer and Eoghan Walsh had seen their team reach the final following another feast of goals - a 7-12 to 2-8 semi-final victory over Naomh Brid.
On the other hand, Naomh Columba, managed by Eugene Doherty, David Gillespie and Aidan Haughey, had a point to spare in a dramatic 4-10 to 4-9 semi-final win over Carndonagh.
Naomh Columba made the stronger start to the second half with three successive Molloy scores and had a relative sanctuary of a four-point lead on 46 minutes. But, again, the momentum u-turned almost in the blink of an eye. Nine minutes into the second half, Matthew Gallagher slapped home a fourth Fanad goal following a free from McGettigan that got caught up in the breeze.
At that juncture, Naomh Columba trailed 1-15 to 4-8 but when Molloy lumped a free into the Fanad Gaels square, his partner in crime put the south-westerners back in front, 2-16 to 4-9. Defender Michael Sweeney saved from Doherty on the Fanad Gaels line and Eoghan McGrenaghan saw his shot saved at the other end by Colin Doherty.
McAteer brought Fanad back level in the last couple of minutes, only for Doherty to punch Naomh Columba in front right on time. It seemed as though the cup would be theirs, only for Fanad to launch one final, climactic attack and Friel drove home a dramatic winner to the delight of those in blue and white huddled in the Robert Emmets terrace.
Those from Naomh Columba, even in defeat, could be proud of the fantastic effort their team played in a wonderful advertisement for underage football in the county.
Fanad Gaels: Eoin McMonagle; James Sweeney, Christopher Friel, Michael Sweeney; James Howe, Fergus Friel, Liam Sweeney; Matthew Gallagher (1-0), Darren McElwaine; John Friel (1-0), Shaun Kerr (1-1), Jonathan Gallagher; Mark McAteer (1-5, 3f), Brandon McClafferty (0-1), Bernard McGettigan (1-3). Sub: Eoghan McGrenaghan for McClafferty (40)
Naomh Columba: Colin Doherty; Vincent Doherty, Ronan Gillespie, Joseph Lyons; Aiden McGinley, Fionn Gallagher, Oisin Byrne; Lanty Molloy (1-8, 2f), Jordan Burns; Eric Carr, Aaron Doherty (1-7, 1f), Paul O’Hare (0-1); Thomas Byrne, Dylan Kelly (0-1), Owen Carr.
Referee: Tony Gallagher.