There have been better games of football played down the years in MacCumhaill Park than Saturday night’s clash of MacCumhaills and Ardara.
Sean MacCumhaills 0-13
However, after an exciting and a frenetic finish, this game will be surpassed by few as the locals chased the win they so desperately required if they were going to join Four Masters from their group, in the last eight.
In the end, the men from the Twin Towns had to settle for a draw which wasn’t just quite good enough and instead it was their opponents Ardara who took the second place in the group and the quarter-final berth.
Substitute Chris Gallen had a chance with the last kick of the game to hit the winner for MacCumhaills, but his strike from 35 metres was just wide of Declan Gallagher’s left hand post.
Gallen found himself in the spotlight after Marty O’Reilly had opted to take a 40 metre short to Pat McNulty, who in turn found Gallen with half of the Ardara defence closing in on him.
MacCumhaills had stormed back into what was at times, a fiery contest in the closing quarter after finding themselves five points down following Gareth Concarr’s 42nd minute goal for Ardara.
Ardara led 1-3 to 0-5 at half-time having led 1-2 to 0-1 following Ryan Melly’s 12th minute goal.
Leading 2-6 to 0-7, Ardara looked to have finally hit for home. But Marty O’Reilly, who had Kevin Herron for a shadow for most of the hour, got the revival underway with a pointed free on 45 minutes. Rory Dunleavy and Stephen O’Reilly quickly added two more points before Ardara found themselves down to 14 after Brendan McNelis picked up his second yellow card in a matter of minutes.
Marty O’Reilly, who had to withstand a lot of tugging and dragging throughout the game, then made it a one point game before Martin Shovlin posted Ardara’s only point of the last quarter, nine minutes from the end.
The closing minutes was all about the Finnsiders. Mulligan converted from 50 metres and O’Reilly landed his sixth of the day from 36 metres to tie up the game.
That score set up a frantic closing five minutes in which Shane Duffy, who had been in the wars a number times, was black carded and Chris Gallen had the chance for the winning strike but his effort just went wide.
Sean MacCumhaills: O Gallen; G Grindle, M Gallagher, J Dunnion; S Duffy, G Dunnion, A McCloskey; P McNulty, S O’Reilly (0-2,1,45); S McGowan, M O’Reilly (0-6,6f), B Lafferty; (0-1); B McLaughlin (0-1), A Kelly, R Dunleavy (0-2). Subs: E Wright for J Dunnion (39); C Gallen for G Grindle (43); S Mulligan (0-1, 1f) for A Kelly (56); P Gallen for S Duffy (Black card, 62).
Ardara: D Gallagher; P Gallagher, D Gavigan, S McLaughlin; P McGrath, K Herron, C Breslin; B McNelis (0-1), K Doherty; K Whyte (0-2), G Concarr (1-0), Tomas Boyle (0-1,1f); R Melly (1-0), C J Molloy, S O’Donnell (0-1). Subs: B Boyle (0-1) for C Breslin (black card, 29); M Shovlin (0-1) for K Whyte (45).
Referee: R O’Donnell (N Muire).