Ardara will play in Division One of the Donegal All County Football League again next season following yesterday’s victory over Four Masters.
Four Masters 0-6
It is now 37 years and counting in Division One for Ardara. And it was the pride and passion laced with grit and determination and no little skill that saw them overcome Four Masters on their own patch in Tirconaill Park.
There may have just been a point between the sides at the end, but on a day that the football was not pretty and the conditions were not the best for quality football either the spoils were with the team that dug deepest.
On a day of many outstanding performances, Brendan McNelis was the one Ardara man that shone brightest and had one of his finest hours in the green and gold. He kicked his side’s four first half points, three of them from frees, two of them from long range on a day that the strong wind gusted across Tirconaill Park.
The first of his points from play on ten minutes got the Ardara challenge up and running after they were hit with an early barrage from the locals.
Barry Dunnion on 25 seconds and Dillon Ward, just over a minute later, got Four Masters off to a flyer. But once they settled and McNelis found the range, much of the remainder of the half belonged to the winners. McNelis followed up his opener with two 40 metre frees on to edge his side to the front by the 15 minute mark,
And they were two up on 21 minutes when he split the posts again from a free on 21 minutes to extend the Ardara lead out to two, 0-4 to 0-2. Ardara were doing all the hard grafting at this stage with Martin Shovlin, Kenneth Doherty, Conor Classon and Nicholas Maguire putting their shoulder to the wheel in a big way too.
Paul Durcan halted the slide when he converted a 45 metre free to cut the margin to one on 24 minutes. And when Benny Byrne, four minutes, later pointed it was all aboard on 0-4 each, before Danny McGarrigle, up from the back, sent the Masters in 0-5 to 0-4 in front at half-time.
The second half was a mere 40 seconds old when Gareth Concarr struck for the game’s big score, a goal for Ardara. Karl Lacey fumbled in his own half-back line and Kenneth Doherty seized on the opportunity like a true predator, and drove past a number of defenders before releasing Concarr, who slid the ball past Durcan.
The goal propelled Ardara back in front 1-4 to 0-5, and on a day of tight margins and missed opportunites at both ends, a goal was always going to be a big score.
The winners only scored once more and they had to wait the best part of 23 minutes for that score when veteran forward Peter McHugh, with one of his first touches, dissected the posts.
But amazingly, too, Four Masters only scored once in the second half, a statistic that will come back to haunt manager Emlyn Hughes and his players when they reflect on what might have been.
Amazingly, too, Masters’ one point was scored two and half minutes into the second period when Michael Doher ty, with his first shot on goal after being introduced seconds earlier, converted off the ground from 40 metres.
And it was not a case that the Masters didn’t have chances; both Doherty and Ward were guilty of missing from medium range and Doherty went for a goal and blasted wide from 25 metres on the hour mark when a popped over point would have reduced the gap to the minimum.
On a day that stakes were high and tempers flared on more than one occasion, Ardara’s Jimmy O’Connell, was shown a second yellow followed by a red in the closing seconds for a late challenge on Karl Lacey.
So on a day of high stakes the honours went to Ardara and deservedly so.
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Shaun McLaughlin, Declan Gavigan, Kevin Breslin; Nicholas Maguire, Nicholas Breslin, Kevin Herron; Jimmy O’Connell, Kenneth Doherty; Brendan McNelis (0-4,3f), Martin Shovlin, Ciaran Breslin; Peter Oliver McNelis, Conor Classon, Gareth Concarr (1-0). Subs: C J Molloy for N Breslin (40); Peter McHugh (0-1) for M Shovlin (49); Tomas Boyle for P O McNelis(58)
Four Masters: Paul Durcan (0-1,1f); Kevin Breslin, Darren Walsh, Danny McGarrigle (0-1); Conor Rooney, Karl Lacey, Barry Dunnion (0-1); Luke Keaney, Barry Monaghan; Benny Byrne (0-1), Conor McMonagle, Caolan Loughney; Dillon Ward (0-1), Darren Doherty, Shane Carr. Subs: Micheal Doherty (0-1,1f) for C Loughney (32); Conor McDaid for D Doherty (52); Kevin McBrearty for C McMonagle (57).
Referee: Jimmy White