Cloughaneely produced a Lazarus-like recovery to keep their championship ambitions alive as they came from seven points down to pip Ardara in a thrilling finish in St. Finian’s Park on Sunday night.
Minor star Shaun McGarvey with six points (four of them from long range frees) all in the closing quarter was the toast of Cloughaneely on Sunday night. And quite rightly too! It was McGarvey’s accuracy both from play and placed balls that turned this tie on its head, and brought Cloughaneely back into a game that seemed all over by the three quarter-hour mark. Leading 2-9 to 0-8, with just over 15 minutes remaining and having played all the quality football Ardara looked as good as home and hosed.
But injuries to Matthew Maher, Gareth Concarr and Kenneth Doherty, having earlier lost livewire corner forward Martin Shovlin – in the first half – and a total collapse around midfield saw Ardara pinned back in their own half for much of the closing stages. With Joe Friel finally gaining a stranglehold in the middle and Sean Maguire, Ciaran Scanlon and Denis Boyle prodding and probing Cloughaneely, who for so long were chasing shadows, finally found their rhythm.
McGarvey got the revival underway with a sweetly struck free from close to the sideline and close on 40 metres out on 47 minutes. Ciaran Scanlon quickly landed another 30 seconds later before McGarvey split the posts with three quick points, two of them off the ground from 40 and 45 metres, to reduce the margin to to a single point 2-9 to 0-14. And with the noose tightening, Ardara’s misery was further compounded when Brendan Boyle, a mere two minutes after replacing Francis Diver in midfield, was carried off after falling awkwardly and twisting his knee.
To make matters worse for Ardara having used their full compliment of subs they had to play the closing five minutes with just 14 players. The locals took full advantage with McGarvey splitting Declan Gallagher’s posts from 45 metres on 59 minutes to tie up the game before Denis Boyle converted from 20 metres to edge the locals in front. Jimmy O’Connell did have a late chance, but was pulled up for holding on too long in what looked a harsh and big call by referee Robbie O’Donnell.
The closing quarter was in stark contrast to what had gone before. For threequarters of the tie there was only one team performing. That was Ardara. In the opening half-hour in particular Paddy McGrath and company were a class apart.
They were winning all the key battles and were in no way flattered to be five up, 2-5 to 0-6 at half-time, having led at one stage by nine points, 2-5 to 0-2. Peter McNelis scored the two goals, the first on nine minutes after being released by Gareth Concarr, with the second coming 11 minutes later in what was a superb individual effort. Indeed but for a good save from Michael McGinley on 22 minutes McNelis could have easily netted a third Ardara goal. Kevin Byrne, Martin Shovlin, Stephen McHugh and Concarr hit the first half Ardara points. After two early Sean Maguire strikes, Cloughanneely through McGarvey (2) and one each from Maguire and Boyle, hit four late points to just about keep their hopes alive at half-time.
Brendan McNelis and Peter McNelis with two quick-fire points got the second half off to a perfect start for the visitors. And while Sean McBride and Boyle found the range for Joe McGarvey’s men, Ardara were still very much in the ascendancy and leading 29 to 0-8 thanks to Martin Sweeney and Stephen Gildea. Gildea converted from 20 metres seconds after coming on for the injured Concarr.
And with just over 15 minutes remaining and seven in front Ardara were looking good. That was until McGarvey stepped into the breach. The game now goes to a play-off to determine who faces Kilcar in the quarterfinal.
Cloughaneely: Michael McGinley; Michael Lynch, Denis Ferry, Kevin Doohan; Joe Gallagher, Kevin McFadden, Eugene Maguire; Joe Friel, Darren McGeever; Ciaran Scanlon (0-1), Denis Boyle (0-3,2f), Shaun McGarvey (0-8,5f); Kevin Mulhern, Sean Maguire (0-3), Sean McBride (0-1). Subs: Ciaran McFadden for D. Ferry (27 inj); Paul Sweeney for S. McBride (48).
Ardara: Declan Gallagher; Kevin Byrne (0-1), Declan Gavigan, Thomas Maguire; Matthew Maher, Paddy McGrath, Kenneth Doherty; Francis Diver, Jimmy O’Connell; Peter McNelis (2-1), Stephen McHugh (0-2,1f), Brendan McNelis (0-1); Martin Shovlin (0-1), Gareth Concarr (0-1), Martin Sweeney (0-1). Subs: Damien Diver for M. Shovlin (24, inj); Eamonn Doherty for M. Maher (40 inj); Stephen Gildea (0-1) for G. Concarr (42 inj).
Referee: Robbie O’Donnell (Naomh Mhuire).