Buncrana had to dig deep to overcome a game Naomh Brid, in their Intermediate semi-final clash in Convoy on Saturday night.
Naomh Brid 0-15
Playing their third game in eight days following their draw and extra-time replay against St Naul’s, the Inishowen men produced a storming second half display to edge out David Walsh and company.
Two points separated the sides at the finish of a pulsating encounter that ebbed and flowed for the 60 plus minutes and the quality of the football would put the vast majority of senior championship games played this season in the shade.
Buncrana’s ability to engineer goals proved crucial even though there was more than a touch of good fortune for their second three pointer eight minutes into the second half.
The goal came when a ball from Oisin Doherty aimed at Darach O’Connor was missed by O’Connor and his marker Jamie Timoney, skidded on the greasy surface hopped over the advancing Stephen Doherty and under the crossbar and into the net.
It came two minutes after John Campbell, who had a fine game at corner-forward, had tied up the game for the fifth time. The goal gave Buncrana the lead for the first time in the tie since Joseph McGrory hit the Naom Brid net, 11 minutes into the game.
McGrory tapped past Stephen Doherty after Darach O’Connor turned his marker Jamie Timoney and beat another Naomh Brid defender before crossing into the path of McGrory, who had the simple task of turning the ball past the stranded Naomh Brid ‘keeper.
McGrory’s goal wiped out two early points from Darragh Brogan.
However, despite conceding the goal, Naomh Brid responded in a positive fashion. And with the pace of Brogan, Shane and Clint Walsh and Calum Gallagher proving too hot to handle for the Buncrana rearguard, Naomh Brid reeled off four quickfire points to go two up, 0-6 to 1-1 by the end of the first quarter,
Shane Walsh (2) one from a 20 metre free, Pauric McDaid (after a Brogan strike came back off the post), Calum Gallagher and Brogan were the Naomh Brid marksmen.
The lightning fast Joseph McGrory and Odhran Doherty responded for Buncrana to tie up the game, 1-3 to 0-6, with six minutes left in the half.
But with Buncrana looking a little leg weary following Tuesday night’s extra-time win over St Naul’s, Naomh Brid hit the front again courtesy of a sweetly struck 45 and a brilliant point on the run from Calum Gallagher.
Peter McLaughlin landed the point of the half from 50 metres but Naomh Brid were still one up at the interval as they led 0-8 to 1-4.
Buncrana got off to a lightning start on the resumption and with points from the impressive Campbell and skipper Odhran Doherty, they were back in front again, 1-6 to 0-8, within two minutes of the restart.
But David Walsh with two white flags in the space of a minute had Naomh Brid back in front before Campbell tied up the contest on 1-7 to 0-10 with his third point of the game and just six minutes gone on the second half clock.
Doherty’s goal, Buncrana’s second, was the game’s next score and was to prove the decisive strike.
Naomh Brid did make a bold bid for it from then until the finish but a point blank save from Gavin Cullen, in the middle of the half, to deny Shane Walsh from close range was a big moment in the game.
David Walsh and Darach ‘Jigger’ O’Connor - with his only point of the game - in the closing minutes of the second quarter traded points, to leave the score 2-8 to 0-11.
The play in the closing minutes was as fast and frenetic as Naomh Bride chased the game. And they were looking good when Clint Walsh reeled off two points in quick succession in the early minutes of the final quarter as he cut the Buncrana lead to a single point, 2-8 to 0-13.
And after Odhran Doherty and Sean Gormley traded points the margin was still the minimum with a little over three minutes remaining, before skipper Doherty kicked two late points to one from Gary McCafferty, to close out the game.
Naomh Brid had one last chance for a smash and grab raid but Pauric McDaid’s 45 floated into the Buncrana goalmouth was well taken by Darren Gillespie and referee Andrew Mullin’s final whistle followed.
The Buncrana goals proving decisive at the end of a thrilling and high quality encounter that could have gone either way. Naomh Brid, on a night they out-cored their opponents by 15 scores to 13, will certainly feel this is one that got away.
Buncrana will now face Cloughaneely in the Intermediate final either on Saturday or Friday night next.
Buncrana: G Cullen; S Doherty, D Gillespie, S Doherty; Oisin Doherty (1-0), Odhran Doherty (0-5),Simon McGrory; Kevin O’Loughlin, P McLaughlin (0-2); B Waldron, G Friel, O Flaherty; J Campbell (0-2), Darrach O’Connor (0-1), J McGrory (1-1). Subs: J O’Loughlin for S Doherty (19); P McMeyler for Oisin Doherty (51,inj).
Naomh Brid: S Doherty; M Quinn, J Timoney, S Burgess; G McCafferty (0-1), R Gallagher, S Gormley (0-1); T Gallagher, D Langan; S Walsh (0-2,1f), D Walsh (0-3,1,f), P McDaid (0-2,1’45’); C Walsh (0-2), D Brogan (0-2), C Gallagher (0-2).
Referee: A Mullen (Killybegs).