Jack Frost was in the air on Tuesday night in Convoy, but Buncrana and St Naul’s warmed the cockles of all present to watch their Intermediate championship replay.
St Naul’s 0-14
St Eunan’s and St Michael’s senior championship clash in Sean MacCumhaill Park, on Saturday night has been hailed as the match of the year so far in Donegal.
Well Tuesday night’s clash in Convoy gave it a run for its money in a riveting tips of the toes contest from the first blow of Robbie O’Donnell’s whistle to his last.
This game had it all. Quality scores, good old fashioned physical hits - the vast majority of which were 100% legal - a number of yellow and black cards, extra-time and a dramatic and dying seconds’ winning point.
The game also had a number of contentious decisions and a group of irate St Naul’s fans heckled referee Robbie O’Donnell at the finish.
As is normally the case both sides had grounds to be unhappy but over the 80 plus minutes the calls balanced themselves out.
Young county star Darach ‘Jigger’ O’Connor scored two goals in the 2-7 to 0-13 drawn encounter in Glenswilly on Saturday.
And the Buncrana ace, despite carrying a knock from Saturday’s encounter, hit the St Naul’s net twice again on Tuesday night, both critical scores.
He struck for the first two minutes before half-time to send his side in 1-4 to 0-6 in front at the interval, somewhat against the run of play.
St Naul’s had looked the more polished outfit in the opening quarter-hour and led 0-5 to 0-3 after fifteen minutes.
Stephen Griffin, who though named at full-forward, played most of the game out around midfield, kicked two of St Naul’s points with Stuart Johnston, Daniel Friel and Cathal Lowther posting the other three.
Simon McGrory, Odhran Doherty and John Campbell were the early scorers for Buncrana, who lost the leader of their attack Garbhan Friel to a black card after just four minutes.
With the pace fast and furious Buncrana were dangerous on the break and ‘Jigger’ seemed to be fouled as he was about to pull the trigger from inside the large rectangle. But the referee waved play on and the shot was saved by Lee McBrearty.
That was on 20 minutes and Odhran Doherty converted from 30 metres before McBrearty was plucking the ball out of the back of his net after been beaten by O’Connor.
The county man got on the end of a defence splitting long delivery from Peter McLaughlin.
Shane Conneely split the posts from a tight angle to make it a one point game at half-time.
Griffin tied up the game four minutes into the new half. Kevin O’Loughlin kicked the Inishowen men back in front after Robbie O’Donnell ruled the strike wide after his umpires disagreed. The official only changed his mind after consulting with his linesman James O’Connor. From my vantage point on the sideline between the two dugouts it looked a clear point.
Griffin restored St Naul’s lead with seven minutes remaining but when two minutes later Lee McBrearty, off his line ,brought down John Campbell on the edge of the rectangle, O’Connor beat Stephen Griffin from the spot to put Buncrana 2-5 to 0-9 up.
Shane Conneely replaced McBrearty with Liam McGroarty stepping into goals.
With the clock ticking Griffin hit two late points to tie up the game at 2-5 to 0-11. The former county man had a chance for a late winner but his 30 metre free from way out on the left wing just tailed wide.
Griffin and Campbell scored a point each as the sides were still level 0-12 to 2-6 at the end of the first period of extra-time.
And with Barry Griffin and Oisin Doherty and O’Connor and Mark Ward trading points it was still all square with a little over a minute remaining.
When Stephen Griffin, on the ground and under pressure from a number of Buncrana defenders, laid the ball back, it fell into the path of O’Connor who in turn set up Kevin O’Louglin for the winner bang on the 80th minute
Buncrana: Gavin Cullen; Stephen Doherty, Darren Gillespie, Sam Doherty; Oisin Doherty (0-2,1f), Odhran Doherty (0-1,1f), Simon McGrory (0-1); Kevin O’Loughlin (0-2), Peter McLaughlin; Bruce Waldron, Garbhan Friel, Oisin O’Flaherty; John Campbell (0-2,1f), Darach O’Connor (2-1, 1-0 pen), Joseph McGrory. Subs: John O’ Loughlin for G Friel (Black card, 4); Kieran McNicholas for O’Flaherty (78).
St Naul’s: Lee McBrearty; Conor McDevitt, Enda Lynch, John Rose; Barry Griffin (0-1), Aidan Kennedy, Stuart Johnston (0-1); Daniel Friel (0-1), Fiachra McGinley; Liam McGroarty, Cathal Lowther (0-1), Brendan McCole; Shane Conneely (0-1), Stephen Griffin (0-8,4f), Barry Rose. Subs: Edward Gallagher for B McCole (h/t); Edward O’Kane for B Rose (41); Mark Ward (0-1)for S Conneely (46); Shane Conneely for Lee McBrearty (black card,54).
Referee: Robbie O’Donnell (Naomh Muire).