One championship dream remains in place and another was shattered as Killybegs overcame Malin yesterday in Ballybofey.
Killybegs, who haven’t won a game in 14 outings in Division One of the All County Football League, are looking forward to a county final meeting with Michael Murphy and Glenswilly on Sunday week.
And they have done it against all the odds and a Malin side that had defeated championship hotshots St. Eunan’s in the quarter-final.
They qualified from a group that included Dungloe, Gaoth Dobhair and Termon,
And to compound matters even more they won playing with 14 men for the entire second half after midfielder Enda Murphy was shown a straight red card for a frontal challenge on Malin’s Damien Harkin, in the closing minutes of the opening half.
This victory was honed out of a good teamwork laced with some patches of quality football and scoretaking coupled with a number of exceptional individual performances.
Among those that rose to the challenge for the winners were Christopher Murrin, Shane Molloy, Matthew Smyth at midfield and new kid on the block Hugh McFadden.
McFadden played at fullforward and kicked a number of big scores, both from play and frees, with his two second frees of the Michael Murphy quality. The first was from 50 metres, in front of the posts and the second was close to the sideline and all of 45 metres from the endline.
Smyth, too, capped a fine performance with three top drawer strikes, all from long range, two of them in the second period when the tie was on a knife edge.
Killybegs refused to buckle in the closing minutes when Malin pressed and fluffed a number of good point scoring opportunites by going for goals when the lesser score would have done.
In fairness to the Inishowen men, they were a pale shadow of the side that ripped St. Eunan’s apart in the quarter-final.
They had all the appearance of a team that the occasion and the prospect of a a first final got to. They were second to every breaking ball around midfield and their first touch was awkward and let them down on countless occasions. And with the exception of full-back Damien Harkin, Charlie Byrne, Anthony Kelly in the middle of the park and Michael Byrne, up front, did little to enhance their reputations.
Yet, they were still in the contest right to the final blow of referee Ian Molloy’s whistle as they pressed for an equaliser at least. But all they had to show for their closing 14 minutes of play was a Michael Byrne point two minutes into injury time.
Byrne’s point came after Antoine O’Hara made a great save to deny Ciaran McColgan from point blank range.
Killybegs were the better side in the first half and deservedly led 0-5 to 0-3 at half time thanks to points from Smyth, McFadden (2), Brendan Faherty and Shane Molloy. Anthony Kelly (2) and Michael Byrne raised the Malin first half white flags.
Down to 14 men, Daniel Breslin extended Killybegs’ lead out to three early in the second half before Malin responded with a Charlie Byrne point and a super goal from Michael Byrne to hit the front for the first time, 1-4 to 0-6.
But three points in three minutes from Brendan Boyle, Smyth and McFadden saw Killybegs hit the front again, with just 11 minutes on the second half clock.
Kelly twice brought the margin back to a point in the closing quarter hour but super strikes form Smyth and McFadden meant that Killybegs maintained a two point advantage before Michael Byrne brought down the curtain on the scoring with an injury time point.
Killybegs: Antoine O’Hara; Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Jason Noctor, Daniel O’Donnell; Christopher Murrin, Shane Molloy (0-1), David Conwell; Enda Murphy, Matthew Smyth (0-3); Daniel Breslin (0-1), Conal Molloy, Brendan Boyle (0-1,1f); Brendan Faherty (0-1), Hugh McFadden (0-4,2f), Brendan Maguire. Subs: Pauric Gallagher for Daniel O’Donnell (52); Mark Boyle for B Maguire (54); Charles Tully for D Breslin (60).
Malin: Declan Lafferty; Finbar Collins, Damien Harkin, Gary Farren; Kieran McColgan, Declan Walsh, Charlie Byrne (0-1); Anthony Kelly (0-4,3f), John G McLaughlin; Stephen McLaughlin, Matthew Byrne, Brendan McLaughlin; Michael Byrne (1-2), Terence Doherty, Paul McLaughlin. Subs: Adam Byrne for P McLaughlin (44); Daniel McDaid for T Doherty (51);.
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill).