This niggly rather than malicious affair descended into a semi farce in four moments of unprecedented and somewhat bizarre behaver as darkness fell on Sean MacCumhaill Park on Saturday evening.
Sean MacCumhaills 2-8
Gaoth Dobhair 1-15
For around a dozen men in green and yellow bibs staged a pitch invasion following a mini melee, after Alan Patton of Sean MacCumhaills found the Gaoth Dobhair net to leave the score at Gaoth Dobhair 1-15 Sean MacCumhaills 2-8 with five minutes to go.
Members of the press recorded the score but when we looked up, around 12 men in yellow and green bibs from both sides were standing around in two separate and tense groups in the middle of the field.
There was no swinging or punching that we could see, and it was amazing how quickly the boys in the bibs took over the centre of the field.
At the same time both teams were gathered in the middle of the field, as referee Paddy McGonigle seemed to be quietly chatting with his linesman Paddy McKeever.
The consultation lasted a few minutes and Eamon McGee of Gaoth Dobhair and Sean MacCumhaills Shane Duffy were given straight red cards when the dust settled.
Referee McGonigle handed out a total of 8 yellow cards over the hour.
But the big talking point was the weird spectacle of so many mentors/officials on the field at the same time for at least three minutes.
Speaking afterwards Gaoth Dobhair manager Conal Sheridan seemed at a loss to explain what happened only to say that his wing- back was “hit off the ball and had a busted nose”.
“We lost our shape towards the end of the match and have lost a man for an unknown reason.
“Complacency crept in, we were eight or nine points up and they came back.
“We lost our shape a bit and have plenty to work on”.
Meanwhile, Sean MacCumhaills manager Brendan Dunleavy said he was a bit disappointed with the refereeing.
“Officials are doing their very best but there was so much petty pulling and dragging in that match that players end up getting frustrated.
“I don’t agree with players striking anybody else and never will but what happens is frustration just leads to somebody reacting in a way that is not their norm.
“That’s what leads to these melees and we need to have more discipline on the field but that has to come from the officials as much as the players”.
Referee McGonigle played seven minutes extra time and MacCumhaills hit two bad wides as Gaoth Dobhair limped home.
But the final score line does not do the Gaeltacht men justice as they were by far the better side for 95% of this one-sided affair.
Odhran MacNiallais was imperious throughout and hit 0-6 while the recently returned Cian Mulligan hit 1-1.
Gaoth Dobhair were minus the charismatic Kevin Cassidy but were well worth their half-time lead of 1-10 to 1-2.
Drove low to the net
Mulligan grabbed the goal in the 18th minute when he drove low to the net from a clever Daniel Friel pass.
MacCumhaills best player Marty O’Reilly hit back almost immediately when he opened a somewhat suspect Gaoth Dobhair full back line before finding the net in the 20th minute.
MacCumhaills missed two great goaling chances in the 10th minute when Patton hit the Gaoth Dobhair post and Brian Lafferty should have scored in the 17th minute only for Gaoth Dobhair keeper Joe Duffy smothered his effort for a 45.
The second half continued in the same vein as Gaoth Dobhair lost Neil McGee who never looked comfortable from the start.
MacNiallais and Michael Carroll continued to leisurely tack on points until the Gaeltacht men gradually faltered in the final quarter.
Marty O’Reilly and Stephen Mulligan led the charge until that bizarre finish which will be remembered for some strange reasons.
Sean MacCumhaills: C Patton, E Wright, M Gallagher, J Dunnion; R McMenamin, B Lafferty Jnr, A McCluskey; S O’Reilly, P McNulty, S Mulligan (0-3f) M O’Reilly (1-4), C Gallen (0-1); A Patton (1-0, G Wilson, S Duffy.
Subs; A Kelly for J Dunnion (39).
Gaoth Dobhair: J Duffy, J Reynolds, N McGee, C Ferry; E McGee, C Gillespie, D Curran (0-1); P McGee, M Carroll (0-4); P Mulligan (0-1), O MacNiallais(0-61f), N Friel (0-2); C Mulligan (1-1), N Kelly, J Gallagher. Subs P Gallagher for P Mulligan (39) J Boyle for N McGee (39 inj), M Roarty for J Gallagher (50), G McBride for M Carroll.
Referee: Paddy McGonigle (Buncrana).