St Eunan’s are back in another Donegal Senior Championship final following their hard-earned one point victory over St Michael’s in Ballybofey on Saturday night.
It took three brilliant strikes, two from Conor Gibbons and one from man of the match Rory Kavanagh, in the closing quarter to finally settle what was a fascinating and high quality encounter under the Sean MacCumhaill Park lights.
Gibbons threaded the first of his two points through the eye of a needle from a tight angle and under pressure on 49 minutes and two minutes after Christy Toye had kicked a glorious point at the other end to restore St Michael’s one point advantage.
And Kavanagh, who had a big closing quarter when the chips were down, landed his point six minutes from the end to restore parity one more time after Colm McFadden had kicked the score of the game to edge St Michael’s back in front with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.
St Eunan’s slow and methodical build up was rewarded when Gibbons stepped into the breach again to split the Butt Hall end posts from a tight angle.
This score proved to be the clincher though Colm McFadden had a late chance to tie up the game and force a Wednesday night return to the banks of the Finn. But the county man’s free from 44 metres out on the right hand side and close to the sideline - the last kick of the game - dropped short and the game was over.
In a fascinating contest involving two teams of contrasting styles, it took all the craft and experience and undoubted football class of Rory Kavanagh - who was immense in the second half - Conall Dunne, Kevin Rafferty, Sean McVeigh, Conor Gibbons, Darragh Mulgrew and second half substitute Mark McGowan to see St Eunan’s ahead at the finish.
For long spells the winners struggled to find a way through the packed St Michael ‘s defence. And to compound matters further they also had difficulty coping with St Michael’s quick break counter attack.
This was evident from the off as Andrew Kelly ghosted in from the left wing to pop over the game’s first point on four minutes. And when two minutes later Brian McLaughlin got a flick on to a Colm McFadden centre over the heads of the St Eunan’s rearguard, the men in the black and amber stripes were four points down.
However, they did seem to have found the key as Sean McVeigh, Conall Dunne, Rory Carr, Kevin Rafferty, Dunne again and Darragh Mulgrew all reeled off points.
By the 17th minute St Eunan’s, who had the advantage of a strong wind and driving rain in their backs, had taken a two point, 0-6 to 1-1, and all seemed to be going their way again.
But they were caught out again with another quick break and Brian McLaughlin and McFadden pointed to tie up the game once more as the half-time approached.
While Sean McVeigh, who had a fine game, had St Eunan’s back in front soon after, another Eunan’s attack was gobbled up and in a flash Kelly and Brian McLaughlin were conjuring up another green flag. This time it was Kelly who got the flick for goal number two and a 2-3 to 0-7 half-time lead for the men from the Bridge.
The two point lead was out to four points thanks to early second half points from McFadden and Kelly as St Michael’s forged into a 2-5 to 0-7 lead.
But the winners were back in the groove again and one in front ten minutes into the new half thanks to a super Darragh Mulgrew goal and points from McVeigh and Dunne.
St Michael’s led once more with McFadden and Toye both raising white flags.
But the closing quarter belonged to St Eunan’s. And their patience paid off when Gibbons and Kavanagh left their imprint with those three late points as they out scored St Michael’s 0-3 to 0-1 when it mattered most.