County champions St Eunan’s had little difficulty against a somewhat lightweight Ardara in this one-sided affair at Pearse Memorial Park.
St Eunan’s 2-10
The losers were outgunned in most departments and could only register one point from play over the year.
They relied excessively on marksman Tomas Boyle up front while Eunan’s had a litany of options in contrast, not least Conor Gibbons who finished up with a grand total of 1-4.
The winners had their share of good fortune in the 4th minute when Jimmy White awarded a long distance penalty after an incident between Ardara’s Kevin Herron and the nippy Lee McMonagle.
Many at the match felt it was highly fortunate but McMonagle calmly converted to give the winners a really good start facing into the breeze.
Underdogs Ardara badly needed to rack up scores in a wind-assisted first half, but they were unable to get quality ball into target man C J Molloy.
And St Eunan’s Darragh Mulgrew made a fine job of sweeping. The winners were well worth their half time lead of 1-2 to 0-3.
The champions always looked the more composed side and had nifty finishers in Gibbons and Lee McMonagle who struck the vital goal in St Eunan’s victory over Naomh Conaill in the county final of 2012.
Ex-county player Rory Kavanagh calmly conducted the orchestra from midfield while Eamonn Doherty was a serious bulwark in defence.
For Ardara, Kenneth Doherty and Brendan Boyle excelled in patches but Ardara were generally overwhelmed by the Eunan’s tactic of breaking at pace from a blanket defence.
But the losers had no real penetration up front against a Letterkenny defence that stayed calm and composed throughout.
Conall Dunne was another major beavering figure for the winners and also hit a few telling points.
Ardara had the benefit of a big breeze in the opening half and got off to a good start when Tomas Boyle converted a free after just two minutes.
But then Killybegs referee Jimmy White awarded a pretty controversial penalty to St Eunan’s after their corner forward Lee McMonagle went down following some what seemed fairly innocuous contact with Herron.
The referee, who was about 30 metres away from the incident, blew for a penalty amid some Ardara incredulity.
McMonagle kept cool to steer the ball low under the diving body of Ardara ‘keeper Declan Gallagher.
But the remainder of the half was a dour struggle between two very defensively minded sides.
The home side picked up two bookings as Nicholas Maguire and Brendan Boyle were shown yellow cards while Darragh Mulgrew was also given a card of a similar nature following a clash with Brendan Boyle.
Conall Dunne got both of Eunan’s opening half points and was also a significant figure in the second half.
The winners were pretty happy with their half-time lead of 1-2 to 0-3.
And Rory Kavanagh and Co continued in the same vein in the second half.
Conall Dunne and the increasingly influential Conor Gibbons were finding the target with true aplomb. And Kevin Rafferty and McMonagle were also very effective.
Ardara threw on Kieran Breslin and Jimmy O’Connell to beef things up but these replacements made no real difference.
For it took Ardara all of 53 minutes to get their first point from play from burly full-forward CJ Molloy.
All of their remaining six points came from the accurate boot of Tomas Boyle.
Ardara put in a much feistier second half but suffered a double indignity of a St Eunan’s goal and a straight red card for substitute Jimmy O’Connell.
Meanwhile Eunan’s march confidently on towards retaining their title.
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Oisin O’Donnell, Declan Gavigan, Matthew Maher; Kevin Herron, Paddy McGrath, Nicholas Maguire; Brendan Boyle, Kenneth Doherty; Marty Shovlin, Peter McNelis, Gareth Concarr; Ryan Malley, CJ Molloy (0-1) Tomas Boyle (0-6, 6f). Subs: Kieran Breslin for Gareth Concarr (h-time), J O’Connell for N Maguire (40); C Classon for K Herron (42).
St Eunan’s: John Paul Clarke; Conor Martin, Mick Martin, Conor Parke; Conor O’Donnell, Eamonn Doherty, Caolan Ward; Conal McGinley, Rory Kavanagh (0-1); Conor Gibbons (0-4), Conall Dunne (0-4,2f), Dara Mulgrew; Lee McMonagle (1-0 pen), Ciaran Sharkey, Kevin Rafferty (0-1). Subs: S McVeigh for Conal McGinley (47) Sean Hensey for M Martin (54), Paddy McGowan for Lee McMonagle (58) Odhran McGinley for Conor Parke (60).
Referee: Jimmy White (Killybegs).