Shaun Boyce, who hit 0-6 for Donegal
The Donegal Masters GAA team secured their place in the Irish TV Gaelic Masters Shield Final after surviving a late scare against Westmeath in Bawnboy, Co. Cavan on Saturday afternoon.
Despite going into half-time in charge of the game with a FIVE point lead in their favour a somewhat disjointed second half threatened to see the Donegal men miss out.
John McNulty’s Donegal squandered an early chance to open the scoring and Westmeath nearly caught the Donegal backs by surprise only for Charlie Doherty to intercept a pass. The first score came after three minutes when Glenswilly’s Gerard McGrenra played in Sean McDaid to point over.
Westmeath replied five minutes later with their full forward accurately pointing from the 20 meter line after cutting in to find space for the shot. Another two efforts were squandered by the Donegal men but point number two came on 10 minutes from a Shaun Boyce free after Michael McShane won the free.
Donegal added another two points within the next five minutes from a second Boyce free and a point from Gerard McGrenra that Daniel Branley set up. Westmeath kicked their second point on 14 from their half back. Donegal started to assert their dominance approaching the 20 minute mark by establishing a three point lead with Dan Branley slotting over on his left foot with Mac Cumhaill’s man Shaun Boyce the provider on this occasion picking him out after the combined efforts of Naomh Muire men Paul Gallagher and Charlie Doherty down the wing.
Westmeath responded to the Donegal pressure and a marauding run caused concern and the play was called back for a free after nothing came from the advantage. The free was neatly put between the posts and a Shaun Boyce point from play sandwiched in between Westmeath’s fourth score of the game on 22 minutes from their centre back. Donegal hit a purple patch and responded almost instantaneously by going on to hit three points from Shane McClafferty (2) and Shaun Boyce (free).
Westmeath, to their credit, were not to be dismayed and their full forward added another superb point to his tally for the day. Donegal finished the scoring for the half and put in place a 5 point lead for half time when a well weighted pass from McGrenra at a tight angle allowed Shaun Boyce to chip over. Half time score: Donegal 0-10 Westmeath 0-5.
The second half was a much different affair for the Donegal side. All the good work in the first half was in danger of amounting to nothing but resilience and strong belief and teamwork ensured the team would go on to fight another day. Westmeath hit two points in the opening five minutes and it was indeed they who were fired up for the second half. Daniel Branley pointed between these two scores with Charlie Doherty called into action again at the back to block an effort down.
Indeed, the entire Donegal team had to lift themselves for the half and had to weather a few storms by entering a near siege like mentality for the second half. Donegal could have given themselves some comfortable breathing space on 40 minutes when a Boyce free fell short and Daniel Branley followed up to point over. Things were looking good on 42 minutes when another Shaun Boyce point had the Donegal men in a 6 point lead but they’d have to wait almost 15 minutes for another score.
Westmeath hit a trio of points by the 50 minute mark to have the Donegal team sitting precariously with a now diminished lead of three points. The game was very much in Westmeath’s hands now and Donegal were on fire-fighting duty throughout the field with both sides really battling for everything. After sustaining pressure for so long Donegal needed to capitalise on any opportunities presented and did so on 58 minutes when another Shaun Boyce free effort in fell short but caused real concern for the Westmeath side but Gerard McGrenra was on call to fist the ball over the bar.
True to the nature of the second half Westmeath replied once more and entering into injury time were now merely two points away from Donegal after converting a free and adding from play. In a move at the end of the game that really showcased the resilience of the Donegal side they were under immense pressure at the back with Daniel Branley offloading the ball from the back and darting up the length of the pitch, combining with Paul McGlynn who returned the pass and allowed Branley to reinforce the lead back to three points and seal the result.
DONEGAL MASTERS: Martin Gillespie, Charlie Doherty, Kevin McGettigan, John Anthony McMullan, Michael McShane, Eamon Doherty, Sean McDaid (0-1), David McShane, Charlie Gallagher, Paul Gallagher, Gerard McGrenra (0-2), Paul McGlynn, Shane McClafferty (0-2), Dan Branley (0-4), Shaun Boyce (0-6,3f). Subs., James McBride for Paul McGlynn; Stephen Walls for Paul Gallagher both ht; Liam Breen for James McBride 42; Adrian McGettigan for M McShane 48; Paul McGlynn for C Gallagher 48; Stephen Moss for S McClafferty 57.
Subs not used: Ross Brady, Joe Boyle, Adrian McGettigan, Charlie McGinty/.