Kilcar U-14s snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a late rally against Letterkenny Gaels in Tir Chonaill Park, Donegal Town.
The Letterkenny lads were much bigger and on top for most of the game until the final ten minutes when persistence by the Kilcar lads, as well as the accuracy of Oran Doogan, saw them snatch the lead for the first time with time almost up.
That lead came from a 20m free. With his side trailing 3-9 to 3-7, Oran Doogan went for goal and smashed the ball to the roof of the net to put his side a point in front.
There was some great defending before man of the match Kenny Doogan, magnificently intercepted a Gaels pass and break out. And when Kilcar won a free, Oran Doogan hit the final point with the last kick of the game.
It was a contest that looked to be in Letterkenny’s hands from early in the contest and when they led by 2-3 to 0-2 after 20 minutes, it even seemed as it might be a landslide.
But Kilcar, thanks to gritty determination and a wonderful display from a small number of players - namely the aforementioned Kenny Doogan, his partner in the half-back line Ryan O’Donnell and midfield pair of Oran Doogan and Cormac O Leime - Kilcar were back within three points at the break..
Diarmaid Cahill and Kenny Doogan swapped early points while Cahill and Darragh Rowan did the same by the 13th minute. Kenny Doogan had been denied by the Gaels ‘keeper after a great run.
Then Letterkenny Gaels took a firm grip with the impressive Ross Marley pointing a free and after a ‘35’ by the same player, there were two great blocks before Gabriel Aduaka picked up the ball with his back to goal but managed to squeeze home the first goal of the contest.
Aduaka was the instigator of a second goal a minute later, turning over possession in his own half-back line before Mikey Sweeney went through to fire home and open a seven point gap.
But Kilcar hit back with Ryan O’Donnell and Oran Doogan making the opening and Seanie Boyle was on hand to finis to the Gaels’ net.
Mikey Sweeney and Diarmaid Cahill added points but a second goal from Ryan O’Donnell on the stroke of half-time left it 2-5 to 2-2 in favour of the Letterkenny boys.
Oran Doogan reduced the lead a minute into the second half but two frees from Ross Marley pushed the lead to four, but that was down to one when Kenny Doogan drove through to fire home his side’s third goal.
It seemed to be Letterkenny’s day when Ross Marley mishit a free and the ball ended in the Kilcar net with Marley almost apologising for his effort a la an Premiership player scoring against his old side.
The margin could have been greater with Mikey Sweeney lashing an effort just across the goal and even though Oran Doogan reduced the margin to three with 12 minutes left, the big turning point in the game came a minute later when Mikey Sweeney drove in along the endline and found Ciaran Kilfeather, who finished to the net, but unfortunately for the Gaels, referee Mark Brown had already indicated a free for a tug on Sweeney’s shirt. Even worse, Marley was off target with the free.
Oran Doogan with two frees reduced the margin to a point. Gaels had another goal chance just wide of the target before Marley put them two up with five minutes left.
But there was to the final twist with Oran Doogan getting the match-winning goal to clinch an unlikely victory.
Apart from those mentioned Colm Garvey, Eric Byrne, Dylan O’Gara and Shane McHugh did well. For Letterkenny Gaels, Mikey Sweeney and Ross Marley were outstanding with Brian Melaugh, Diarmuid Cahill, Kieran Patton and Gabriel Aduaka making a huge contribution.
Kilcar: Colm Garvey; Pauric Love, Dylan O Gara, Eric Byrne; Ryan McShane, Kenny Doogan (1-1), Ryan O Donnell (1-0); Oran Doogan (1-6, 1-0f,3f), Cormac O Leime; Shane McHugh, Jonathan Byrne, Eoin Cormack; Darragh Rowan (0-1), Cealan Curran, Seanie Boyle (1-0). Subs., Liam Gavigan for Curran; Eoin Love for Rowan. Rest of panel Matthew Reilly, Nathan Boyle, Glenn McLoughlin, David Byrne, Adam Barnes, Patrick McNelis.
Gaeil Leitir Ceanainn: Ben Carr; Niall Diver, Brian Melaugh, Cormac Doherty; Taylor Cassidy, Conor Farrell, Conor Cullen; Mikey Sweeney (1-1), Diarmuid Cahill (0-4); Keelan Margey, Kieran Patton, Gabriel Aduaka (1-0); Ciaran Kilfeather, Ross Marley (1-4,1-0f,4f), Ronan Frain. Subs., Conor Walker for Cassidy; Conal Bonner for C Doherty; rest of panel: Shaun McGilloway, Jamie Doherty, Aaron Calpin, Thomas Keys, Jack Winters, Jake Doherty, Oisin Keenan, Jordan Ferry, Sean O Baoill, Odhran Murray.
Referee: Mark Brown